Issue Four

Summer 2012


The Burning Horse

I read the news about a boy and
his horse set on fire on the border by
Palomas. I felt like him, my hair crackling,
or him after, the dryness inside of
what has been irrevocably razed to
ash. What they don't tell you about middle
age—that it will feel like youth burning
away—that same restless river, desire turning,
flashing silver in the setting sun or
the tiny fish which keep slipping through
your fingers, their loss made sharper by
the weight of what you know. No one
innocent, no one true. Not even you, though
you try so mightily. Today a friend wrote
me an injured e-mail, which I deserved. I
had dispatched him so efficiently, the way
I cut bread for sandwiches, the serrated edge
of a knife, wrapping them tight in plastic
not enough like skin, the crumb-strewn
table, which I wipe sterile-clean, which I
keep wiping. Nothing ever clean enough.
The boy kept riding for five minutes, his
last—flare of such acute agony my hand
shakes imagining it. I carry him in my head.
I can't help it. The papers say they are
working to uncover his name, and I know
there is terrible courage in even the smallest
weight of time. I think tonight of my hurt
friend, my sorry self. I think of all the things I
have not done right. My snug house ticking
beside the denuded canal. The horse rearing up,
the boy screaming. And you who I have
loved in such a way it has only made me
less kind. A cloud of mosquitoes swirls over
the acequia. If I walked out there, they would
bloody my legs, but here, though the window
screen, they are breathtaking—a bright thistle,
gold cloud that flickers with dark lights.


Sheila Black

bird of paradise flower