from Some Say the Lark

A Horse Named Never

At the stables, each stall was labeled with a name.
 
Biscuit stood aloof—I faced always, invariably, his clockwork tail.
 
Crab knew the salt lick too well.
 
Trapezoid mastered stillness: a midnight mare, she was sternest and tallest, her chest stretched against the edges of her stall.
 
I was not afraid of Never, the chestnut gelding, so rode his iron haunches as far as Panther Gap.
 
Never and I lived in Virginia then.
 
We could neither flee or be kept.
 
Seldom did I reach the little mountain without him, the easy crests making valleys of indifferent grasses.
 
What was that low sound I heard, alone with Never?
 
A lone horse, a lodestar, a habit of fear.
 
We think of a horse less as the history of one man and his sorrows than as the history of a whole evil time.
 
I fed him odd lettuce, abundant bitterness.
 
Who wore the bit and harness, who was the ready steed.
 
Or: I think there be six Nevers in the field.
 
He took the carrot, words by own reckoning, an account of creeks and oyster catchers.
 
I named my account “Notes on the State of Virginia.”
 
It was bred for show and not to race.
 
Never, I cried, Never.
 
Were I more horse than rider, I would better understand the beast I am.
 
Our hoof-house rested at the foot of the mountain, on which rested another house more brazen than statuary.
 
Let it be known: I first mistook gelding for gilding.
 
I am the fool that has faith in Never.
 
Somewhere, a gold door burdened with apology refuses all mint from the yard.