There was a year when you thought of nothing
but horses, from the wild mustang to thoroughbreds, some white

but mostly you envisioned them as dark, chestnut and black,
shiny like light on the surface of water. Cut-outs

covered your walls, until there was only them
falling into each other: how could there be anything else

to dream of? You wore your hair like a mane,
braided like a mane, like a rope running down

behind you. For a year you felt too massive to stay,
too wounded to move forward. You listened for bells,

for the precision in a sentence that held the shape of an arrow,
one that knew how to find the heart, as if the heart were truly

forgiveness. It’s then you began to realize that there might be others
who thought they could become horses too, and you called to them,

and sometimes you believed you heard them answer,
as an afterthought, while trying to leave this world for the next.

When You Find Her She’ll Be Wearing the Classic Black Dress

and standing in front of a backdrop
of lattice, vines growing rampant in and out of the squares,
her own hair swimming. You’ll know

she’s just stopped running, even though she’ll try her best to hide it:
you’ll see how she’s gasping for air, her mouth wide-open,
as if to say she’s surprised to see you,
but she won’t be at all, not really.
She’s expected you to come, to have followed her from the boat
to the weathered house where she lives with her brother and his dog,
and fries eggs in a well of bacon fat,
eating them straight from the skillet resting on a pillow on her lap,
the dog at her side like the plaster grizzly bear
frozen mid-leap on the left side of the sofa.
She’ll sing to them, an octave too high, but sweetly,
when she’s drunk and crying.

She knows you watch her because she’s so thin,
as thin as her mother, able to buy things in second-hand stores
and look good in them. Sometimes you catch her speaking
in Hungarian, like her mother, but she quickly smiles
that caught-smile and looks away. When she buys bread
from the man who, like you, knows who she is, exactly,
she doesn’t say thank you but just stares at him,
like she would an old lover.

You both live in the part of the city where the travelers come,
where the river turns, a muddy, dank river no one would swim in,
one only good enough for spit. Sometimes a group of men stand
together to see whose saliva will go the furthest.

When you approach her door with your gifts, you are thankful
to have a purpose, a destination at the end of the week,
and she, too, is grateful. She is dressed for you, dressed like a sliver
of the night you love her in, arms outstretched for the roses, the meats,
you saying, mimicking her accent, “You make the most tender steaks.”

Kelly Girl

They pull up in a red pickup, the girl straddled across her father’s lap,
her head tucked beneath his chin, a pink pacifier plugging up
her four-year-old mouth, as if she were a sink full of water.

They fall out of the truck and into the November air, and she skips
ahead to the play-yard. Slow down, he says, Kelly Girl.
She throws her head back, in the way her mother must.

Her arms are shiny in the sunlight, as if someone had rubbed oil
on them. But the rest of her is covered with a powdery dirt,
a thin dusting of cocoa. Kelly Girl want swing, he says

as he lights a cigarette and pushes wildly until she is taut
with laughter. The pacifier falls out of her mouth to where
it is lost, and her dress flies upward to cover her face. Enough, he says.

When she gets down she is slower, as if just waking from a nap. The sun
bleeds orange across the sky, like fire seen through an oven’s window.
You can almost taste it, in the winter, the sugar the body craves.

In the Paint

(after The Starry Night)

The wind is curled there or is it breath
like that of you in my ear when we were
then in that consumption of us? Each
fascination drew us back
to the heaviness of it, the smoke of it
in winter billowing out of our kindling.
It was the tapping to the sessions,
the goblets clanging, fingerprints
on the cutlery. It was the instrument of being
the one, that perfection that only hands
can realize. To be pressed to a wall
was to open into a window
in a room with only one door, which
was locked. Each inaccurate perception
a sustaining truth, for all our lifetime.
A whole village asleep inside of us
with the mistral wind and its cleansing.


His mother gave him the name Bartholomew
because she wanted something people

would stop to say, a freight-train pause
to make you look at his freckled face and docile

features. He learned early to say I prefer
Bartholomew, not Bart, or Tolly, nothing

that would make him less than those four
protracted syllables carrying a great uncle

and trenches to lie down cool in the summer-
time when he offered me ripe fruit still speaking

with his own mouth full and his reedy fingers
curled around the core of what he could not

finish, before he tossed it away, further
than the dog could fetch. He let me be

a girl longer than I was, let me talk in accents
and never once corrected my mispronunciations

of his name in Spanish, Bartolomé and Italian,
Bartolomeo. In graveyards, we always

found a tombstone with his name for him
to stretch before, making his pants ride up

to show his bare ankles where he wrote phrases
like: We’re all predictable, in our own way.