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Elegy With A Bridle In Its Hand

One was a bay cowhorse from Piedra & the other was a washed out

And both stood at the rail of the corral & both went on

In each effortless tail swish, the flies rising, then congregating

Around their eyes & muzzles & withers.

Their front teeth were by now as yellow as antique piano keys & slanted to the

Of shingles on the maze of sheds & barn around them; their

Chins were round & black as frostbitten oranges hanging unpicked from the

Of trees all through winter like a comment of winter itself on

That led to it & found gradually the way out again.

In the slowness of time.  Black time to white, & rind to blossom.

Deity is in the details & we are details among other details & we long to

Teased out of ourselves.  And become all of them.

The bay had worms once & had acquired the habit of drinking orange

From an uptilted bottle & nibbling cookies from the flat of a hand, & like to

Nothing else now, & the palomino liked to do nothing but gaze

At traffic going past on the road beyond vineyards & it would follow each

With a slight turning of its neck, back & forth, as if it were a

Of great interest to him.

If I rode them, the palomino would stumble & wheeze when it

Into a trot & would relapse into a walk after a second or two & then

Completely & without cause; the bay would keep going though it

Underneath me like a rocking chair of dry, frail wood, & when I knew it could no

Continue but did so anyway, or when the palomino would stop & then

Only a step or two when I nudged it forward again,

I would slip off either one of them,

Riding bareback, & walk them slowly back, letting them pause when they wanted to.

At dawn in winter sometimes there would be a pane of black ice

The surface of the water trough & they would nudge it with their noses or muzzles,

And stare at it as if they were capable of wonder or bewilderment.

They were worthless.  They were the motionless dusk & the

Moonlight, & in the moonlight they were other worlds.  Worlds

And without visitors.  Worlds that would cock an ear a

When the migrant workers come back at night to the sheds they were housed

And turn a radio on, but only for a moment before going back to

Wordless & tuneless preoccupation involved them.

The palomino was called Misfit & the bay was named Querido Flacco,

And the names of some of the other shapes had been

And Ojo Pendejo & Cue Ball & Back Door Peter & Frenchfry &

And Rolling Ghost & Anastasia.

Death would come for both of them with its bridle of clear water in hand And they would not look up from grazing on some patch of dry grass or

Acknowledge it much; & for a while I began to think that the

Rested on a limitless ossuary of horses where their bones & skulls

And fused until only the skeleton of one enormous horse

The smoke of cities & the cold branches of trees & the

Whine of traffic on the interstate.

If I & by implication therefore anyone looked at them long enough at

Or in moonlight he would know the idea of heaven & of life

Was so much blown straw or momentary

At the unhappy wedding of a sister.

Heaven was neither the light nor was it the air, & if it took a physical

It was splintered lumber no one could build anything with.

Heaven was a weight behind the eyes & one would have to stare right through

Until he saw the air itself, just air, the clarity that took the shackles from his

And the taste of the bit from his mouth & knocked the rider off his

So he could walk for once in his life.

Or just stand there for a moment before he became something else,

Flyspeck on the wall of a passing & uninteruptible history whose sounds

To be a cheering from bleachers but were actually no more than the

Of cars entering the mouths of a tunnel.

And in the years that followed he would watch them in the backstretch or the far

At Santa Anita or Del Mar.  Watch the way they made it all seem effortless,

Watch the way they were explosive & untiring.

And then watch the sun fail him again & slip from the world, &

The stands slowly empty.  As if all moments came back to this one,

To this one out of all he might have chosen-Heaven with ashes in its

And filling what were once its eyes-this one with its torn

Littering the aisles & the soft racket the wind made.  This one.  Which was his.

And if the voice of a broken king were to come in the dusk &

To the world, that grandstand with its thousands of empty seats,

Who among the numberless you have become desires this

Which comprehends nothing more than loss & fragility & the fleeing of flesh?

He would have to look up at the quickening dark & say:

Me.  I do.  It's mine.

Larry Patrick Levis (September 30, 1946 – May 8, 1996) was an American poet.
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