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.


From Some Say the Lark (Alice James Books, 2017). Copyright © 2017 by Jennifer Chang. Used with permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Alice James Books, www.alicejamesbooks.org.