The old mare is long dead now
At least gone
Maybe her hoof marks have turned to clay
Maybe even they have been blown away
My parents were renting an old house ten miles in from the last stretch of the old country road, hidden below a horizon made of dead birch and walnut trees, the house just down from a small lagoon covered in brown ice, a crust of dead bugs, a funereal robe now and then flickering silver.
No mails came there
You had to drive out into the fog to the small yellow-bricked post office next to the gas station to get your TV guide and gold government checks
After chopping wood that morning my stomach anguished for cornbread and beans
I was staying with my parents for a couple months
Yet again, just trying to get my footing
One night I fell sick and my father laid his hands on me
I was eating his food and sucking up his air so I tolerated his biblical histrionics
The next morning the fever had broken and I awoke on a pillow wet as a cow’s liver
No one seemed to be home, I think dad had taken mom to her pill mill doctor for liniments and morphine
I was all alone
I walked out onto the front porch, screened in with a fine steel mesh netting to contain any last bit of civility that might leak out or be carried away by water beetles
I looked out toward the old creek and tried to listen for its licking, its lapping, its running on at the corner of its mouth
But it had been muted and dried up, mostly, years before
I strained but to no avail
Craning my neck I took in the low hills of clover and cow shit, of wild flowers my mother called Charlie Browns, of mud and burned broken oaks, black as ash, made blacker by the morning dew.
And then in the distance, I could barely make her out, stood an old mare, gray backed and spotted like the cancer on my grandmother’s hands.
She stood in perfect relief.
In that moment everything around me froze.
It was all too unreal
I told myself even then
And so, all alone I tried the question out
I sat the hot cup of coffee down on the wooden railing and let out a screeching, high-pitched obbligato which required some effort, effort which seemed to pull my balls upward
Funny anatomical gestures within me
But she did not move
The note echoed through the hills and flew high and out to the next plot of land
I disputed its reverberations and tried again
Again, the mare stood rigid, a post mortem farce.
I could easily let this get to me but I dare not.
I did not.
Again I let one out. Steely and stern and irrefutable.
And just as I’d given up hope on the whole affair, the winding course of sound finally reached her and she, in the mist, as if holding for the cameras, turned.
Her speckled jowls shutter.
Her haunches coil.
Her eyes, sullen and lowed, slowly lift upward, holding. Seeing me from afar.
I feel her gaze.
Winding the top of the bank, my father’s Ford rolls down the gravel driveway.
I take a sip of the coffee, look out for the foal, and she is gone.