"Life doesn’t have to be human" — Alice Notley
I put a horse in the poem. I braided her mane. She was all the colors I knew
the word for: chestnut, dappled, bay. It is possible to know
the word for snow and never brush its crystals. It is possible to touch
a woman and never know her name. The horse’s name
was Silence. Her hooves clomped tracks through the snow. I knew
the snow’s name once but when I touched it I became smoke.
The adjective and noun forms glide side-by-side. I am no longer
damaged. Silence wasn’t silent. Golden wasn’t hewn from gold.
I wanted to be myself, described, not some other form. A silent
girl, a girl made from snow, a girl whose hair was full of horses.
I say this, but it isn’t true. Escape is a sail filled with endless wind.
Escaped is what the wind leaves when it goes.
I imagine the feelings don’t belong to me but float, clouds
through porous skin. I become a hollow shell for the horses
now with braided tails who run up and down my bones.
There is a type of snow that means everything is sleeping
and a type that means everything is dead. Speak to me ghoul. My name
is No One and the wind isn’t letting anyone else come in.
There was a greenish stone lodged under the skin
of my heel. A man showed me how to open the peach
to its pit then split the pit to reveal an edible amber heart.
The horse shook as if wind touched her but the air
was still. Can’t remember the damn dream. I knew somebody
could. So I shook too and placed the salty heart on my tongue.
I wore white. The snow filled cracks in the bark so the trees
wore cold lace veils. I promised the sea I would marry
its salt but here I was, frost glittering like candlelight.
To say death is to know, to marry your death. The tiny church
in the pines was hardly wide enough for a coffin.
The dead would have to wait outside.
Who was the “I” who wore a white dress and did
as she was told? Bridle the mare. Become a tree
letting go its frost-bitten needles. Drink this salt, You.
And worse, who was the voice that told? Chew
the heart of the peach even if it’s not sweet. Become
a big, black eye that rises like an inked-out moon.
The horse began to morph. At the end I knew
her eyes, the dark, wet orbs, but she was soft now,
all around. A hazy cloud of gold. The lion. White teeth
shining like snow. I felt a horse gallop in my mouth
so I spit it out. Then there was another horse, another
mouth, and my hands becoming a black pair of hooves.