Let us not with one stone kill one bird, 
much less two. Let us never put a cat 
in a bag nor skin them, regardless 
of how many ways there are to do so. 
And let us never take the bull, especially 
by his gorgeous horns. What I mean is 

we could watch our tongues or keep 
silent. What I mean is we could scrub 
the violence from our speech. And if we find
truth in a horse’s mouth, let us bless her

ground-down molars, no matter how 
old she is, especially if she was given 
as a gift. Again, let’s open her mouth——that of the horse, 
I mean——let us touch that interdental space where 
no teeth grow, where the cold bit was made to grip. 
Touch her there, gently now, touch that gentle 

empty between her incisors and molars, rub her 
aching, vulnerable gums. Don’t worry: doing so calms her. 
Besides, she’s old now; she’s what we call 
broken; she won’t bite. She’s lived through 
two thirteen-year emergences of cicadas

and thought their rising a god infestation, 
thought each insect roiling up an iteration 
of the many names of god, because god to her is 
the grasses so what comes up from grass is
god. She would not say it that way. Nor would she

say the word cicada——words are hindrances 
to what can be spoken through the body, are 
what she tolerates when straddled, 
giddy-up on one side then whoa on the other. After, 
it’s all good girl, Mable, good girl
before the saddle sweat is rinsed cool 
with water from the hose and a carrot is offered 
flat from the palm. Yes, words being 

generally useless she listens instead 
to the confused rooster stuttering when the sun
burns overhead, when it’s warm enough
for those time-keepers to tunnel up from the 
dark and fill their wings to make them 
stiff and capable of flight. To her, it is the sound 

of winter-coming in her mane 
or the sound of winter-leaving in her mane——
yes, that sound——a liquid shushing 
like the blood-fill of stallion desire she knew once 
but crisper, a dry crinkle of fall 
leaves. Yes, that sound, as they fill their new wings 
then lumber to the canopy to demand
come here, come here, come 
here, now come

If this is a parable you don’t understand, 
then, dear human, stop listening for words. 
Listen instead for mane, wind, wings
wind, mane, wings, wings, wings. 
The lesson here is of the mare 
and of the insects, even of the rooster 
puffed and strutting past. Because now, 
now there is only one thing worth hearing, 
and it is the plea of every living being in that field 
we call ours, is the two-word commandment 
trilling from the trees: let live, let live, let live. 
Can you hear it? Please, they say. Please.
Let us live.  

Copyright © 2024 by Nickole Brown. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 28, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets.