The night horse and I
thread the eyes of dark valleys
envy of the sun
Copyright 2013 by Dan Collins, aka Atticus.
Image: Yves Klein
Right under their noses, the green
Of the field is paling away
Because of something fallen from the sky.
They see this, and put down
Their long heads deeper in grass
That only just escapes reflecting them
As the dream of a millpond would.
The color green flees over the grass
Like an insect, following the red sun over
The next hill. The grass is white.
There is no cloud so dark and white at once;
There is no pool at dawn that deepens
Their faces and thirsts as this does.
Now they are feeding on solid
Cloud, and, one by one,
With nails as silent as stars among the wood
Hewed down years ago and now rotten,
The stalls are put up around them.
Now if they lean, they come
On wood on any side. Not touching it, they sleep.
No beast ever lived who understood
What happened among the sun’s fields,
Or cared why the color of grass
Fled over the hill while he stumbled,
Led by the halter to sleep
On his four taxed, worthy legs.
Each thinks he awakens where
The sun is black on the rooftop,
That the green is dancing in the next pasture,
And that the way to sleep
In a cloud, or in a risen lake,
Is to walk as though he were still
in the drained field standing, head down,
To pretend to sleep when led,
And thus to go under the ancient white
Of the meadow, as green goes
And whiteness comes up through his face
Holding stars and rotten rafters,
Quiet, fragrant, and relieved.
Copyright by James Dickey.
Images: 1. Dejeka 2. NeighborsandWives, Tumblr
Barely a twelvemonth after
The seven days war that put the world to sleep,
Late in the evening the strange horses came.
By then we had made our covenant with silence,
But in the first few days it was so still
We listened to our breathing and were afraid.
On the second day
The radios failed; we turned the knobs; no answer.
On the third day a warship passed us, heading north,
Dead bodies piled on the deck. On the sixth day
A plane plunged over us into the sea. Thereafter
Nothing. The radios dumb;
And still they stand in corners of our kitchens,
And stand, perhaps, turned on, in a million rooms
All over the world. But now if they should speak,
If on a sudden they should speak again,
If on the stroke of noon a voice should speak,
We would not listen, we would not let it bring
That old bad world that swallowed its children quick
At one great gulp. We would not have it again.
Sometimes we think of the nations lying asleep,
Curled blindly in impenetrable sorrow,
And then the thought confounds us with its strangeness.
The tractors lie about our fields; at evening
They look like dank sea-monsters couched and waiting.
We leave them where they are and let them rust:
'They'll molder away and be like other loam.'
We make our oxen drag our rusty plows,
Long laid aside. We have gone back
Far past our fathers’ land.
And then, that evening
Late in the summer the strange horses came.
We heard a distant tapping on the road,
A deepening drumming; it stopped, went on again
And at the corner changed to hollow thunder.
We saw the heads
Like a wild wave charging and were afraid.
We had sold our horses in our fathers’ time
To buy new tractors. Now they were strange to us
As fabulous steeds set on an ancient shield.
Or illustrations in a book of knights.
We did not dare go near them. Yet they waited,
Stubborn and shy, as if they had been sent
By an old command to find our whereabouts
And that long-lost archaic companionship.
In the first moment we had never a thought
That they were creatures to be owned and used.
Among them were some half a dozen colts
Dropped in some wilderness of the broken world,
Yet new as if they had come from their own Eden.
Since then they have pulled our plows and borne our loads
But that free servitude still can pierce our hearts.
Our life is changed; their coming our beginning.
Note: Edwin Muir published this poem without stanza breaks; I have added them for online readability.
Images: 1. hdw.eweb4.com 2. Sayaka Ganz