You Look Up Pictures of Icelandic Ponies

before sleep
and carry a box cutter
for protection
you are an animal that is all loins
and no dexterity
you are the loneliness
and non-loneliness of a planet with a flag in it
and something ugly raccoon-paws
the inner lining of your throat
but you swallow it
and you smash a snow globe in a parking lot
and you leave the door open
to the tea factory’s peppermint room
contaminating everything
the sleepytime blend
the almond sunset and genmaicha
the hibiscus broth your parents made you drink
to prevent recurrent UTIs
and outside the palm trees
in need of treatment for exotic diseases
keep dying
slowly like a woman circling a parking lot
and if you had to name what you think you are
you would say bogwolf
and the thing clawing your throat
draws blood
but you swallow it
and you live for the ways people in love penetrate
each other
for the sweetness of lichens
for the return of normal hand smell
after wearing latex gloves
you thank the bones that made your soup
and all the brake pedals that aren’t broken


Copyright © 2019 by Ruth Madievsky. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 28, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“Have you ever seen Icelandic horses? I've only seen pictures and am very taken with their luscious coats and expressive eyes. A friend who visited Iceland told me that because they live in such isolation, Icelandic horses are totally vulnerable to disease that's endemic elsewhere. Which means that horses who leave Iceland can never return. This poem is part of a new manuscript I'm working on. If Emergency Brake was about saying the unsayable, this new book is about what happens after. It's more playful, and a lot of the poems are held together by a kind of cartoon logic that resists easy categorization as either funny or sad. The bleak is cut with the absurd, and in every bit of humor there's a drop of blood.”
—Ruth Madievsky