The White Mare

By Darren Morris

News spread of my mother’s death

                                                            and a few came by

to ask how I was.

                        Take care, they said, take time to feel;

                        sorry for your loss.

But I wanted to tell them about this horse I knew—

            my uncle’s filly, playful as a puppy when we were young,

who lipped my ears and nuzzled

                                                my pockets for apples my uncle kept in his.

I visited his farm again after the funeral

                                    where the body and the memory turned to ash

and the eyes were donated to the future as they had been in life.

He told me the story of how he had been the first to arrive

at my parents’ wedding and the first to leave.

I had to milk the cows for the second time that day, he said,

                                                by way of some excuse

                                                            that he didn’t need to give,

as if some final obligation he might tender over her life.

But where was the horse, I wanted to know.

            Out there, somewhere, he said. Watching us, no doubt.

            Two years ago, a maniac came off the road and she went

to greet him at the fence as she would for anyone.

                                    I should have taught her to be afraid.

She didn’t shy away even when he raised the axe

                        or brought it down against

                        the length of her muzzle,

            like a sapling birch cleft and bloody from the blow.

It cost the crops that year to have her saved, if not restored.

Now she’ll keep company to no one, and I’ll not try to tame her again.

                                                But there was one thing they shared.

I waited with him at dusk on his wood-slat porch.

When all the words like sparrows

went far as they could,

                                                she appeared

at the edge of the clearing, in the oily aura of a spectral terror.

Between the branches she seemed some bifurcated

                                                            stand-in for the real, as if

                                    some varied layer of the same

unmitigated desire that rent,                                 that tore her to pieces

                                    between         the worlds,

            that amputated the massive                       heart-shaped core,

                        the stifle         from the gaskin,

                                    the withers from      the mane.

Half-hidden and half-revealed, managing barely the insanity

            of being,

                        but drawn back nevertheless to this maybe life

                                    that beckoned                       as the dead sometimes do.

Slowly, cautiously, she approached us, quiet as a deer.

                                    Her face,       

                                                white as a stone ruin,

                        and the scar, the lawless bank of a hidden spring,

                                                blindly coursing toward its sourceless source.

I held out what I’d been given to give.

That distance between me and the white mare’s remaining eye—

                                    it is

                                                what we are made of most.

She kept it on me, wide as heaven, worried and wanting, flecked

            with terror-filled joy.

                                                The apple infinite

to which she bent and took. 

                                                                        For in that vanishing light,

                                                            it appeared as blue as grief.

Listen to Darren reading The White Mare, first published by Lingerpost.


Darren Morris is the Poetry Editor at Parhelion. His work has appeared in The American Poetry ReviewBest New PoetsThe Missouri ReviewNew England ReviewNorth American ReviewPoetry Ireland ReviewRaritanThe Southern Review, and others. He earned his BA from the University of Missouri and MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University.