Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

Detail of the Four Chambers to the Horse's Heart

Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

Detail of the Four Chambers to the Horse's Heart

Article excerpt

1

Listen. The last time I saw my father

alive, he spoke of horses, the brute geometry

of a broken team in motion. He tallied

the bushels of oats, gallons of water

down to the drop each task would cost.

How Belgians loved hardwood names the most.

Give them the timber sled at Logging Camp

any day, the workable meadows in need

of leveling, tilling, harrowing, new seeding.

We could've been in our dark loafing shed,

cooling off between loads of chopping hay,

the way he carried on that last good day.

With the proper encouragement, he said,

they would work themselves to death.

2

Drifts of snow up to their hocks and knees,

the team struggles. They want nothing more

than to droop in the breath-warm barn,

to fill both cheeks with the chopped timothy

of August afternoons, to muzzle trough water,

then rest. Nothing more now than to rest.

Snowflakes alighting on their hot withers

vanish. The sledge so laden with slush and ice.

They snort, toss, stamp and fart to keep blood

thrumming through their bodies, heavenly

machinery in sync with work and weather.

Because the driver, my father, chirps and barks

in a barely human way, they labor.

The work will stop when he says so.

3

Breaker of Mustangs and Broncos, saint

to all things unbridled, you knew cancer

(like the roots dismantling your culvert)

would have you drawn and quartered. …

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