(after “Horse,” a cyanotype in sixteen panels by Carrie Witherell)
Its white bones float
on blue, its meat a ghost
around the bones, an afterimage
pegged to a wall with silver tacks.
Whether the blue is the blue
before dawn or the blue after dusk,
no way to know. Magritte blue,
streetlights on, the tidy houses sharp-peaked.
This is a puzzle broken
into sixteen squares.
What frightens me: galactic emptiness
in the blank eye socket, the awkward articulation
of those ankle bones.
Oh, memory of my girl body wrapped tight around the body of a horse!
Hoof beat, heart drum, field, crushed mint, and wind.
Oh, speed and power and heat between my legs
before this has another meaning.
All girls have a horsey phase, the Freudians say.
I say all skeletons are spectacles.
By which I mean they startle, fill our living bones
with tiny bits of light, exploding.
In the bottom of an abandoned silo I found
the skeleton of a cat, curled into a wreath
around its own solitary death.
What I don’t want to talk about: the relics.
The men on horseback and their statues everywhere.
The lifted hoof, the cape and sword, the bronze.
The glue plant either. Or how cities
used to stink of decomposing horse.
Gutter, ditch and gulley.
Back, back, back, back to grassy breath and nose,
curry comb following the curve of flank,
to water sucked from bucket and creek,
to days when I lay like a blanket draped across
a horse’s back, back to the animal
without the bit in its mouth,
the animal, the girl, back, back.
How they nicker through nostril and throat.
How they scare for life.
How they remember.
Also: when a horse steps on your foot, it isn’t a mistake.
Sorrel, chestnut, palomino, gray, roan, cream, black, dappled, pinto, blaze.
I shut my ears to the scientific name for horse, or girl, or blue, or gone.
I chant their colors, turn the hall that holds this horse on end
and place this horse up in the sky, not winged or mythical,
but standing still.
Of every bone I make a star.
Hand flat, I offer sugar to the giant mouth.
Hayden Saunier is the author of four poetry collections; the most recent, How to Wear This Body (Terrapin 2017). Widely published in journals, including Beloit Poetry Journal, Poet Lore, RHINO, Virginia Quarterly Review, Poetry Daily, and The Writer’s Almanac, her work has been awarded the Pablo Neruda Prize, the Rattle Poetry Prize, Gell Poetry Award, and nominated numerous times for a Pushcart Prize. Hayden is the founder of the poetry + improvisation group, No River Twice. For additional information, visit www.haydensaunier.com.