My Friend at Sixty-Eight

She speaks of the next ten good years—
find new expressions, travel, see the Australian
she shared God with,
when both children were missionary children.

She pinches up, presses for release from her current mate,
who drags on her skirts for the mother he lost.
Yet her habits hold her toes in place.

Her academic textbook
just finished, her crown.

I like to watch her walk.
Like her father did, buttocks pushed out a little,
often in his white wedding pants, full of cheer.

Jenny Arrives

Jenny came to us by surprise.
Grandpa brought her up the hill
at twilight, to pasture her for the summer.

He borrowed her from his friend,
Diana, who raised show horses.

Jenny was a Morgan horse, he said.
Muscles in her haunches bigger
than all of ours.

“Cinch her up and climb on,”
Grandpa said.

She let me sit on her back
and did what I told her to do
with my voice or the leather reins,

the only creature in my life to do both,
as if we both wanted it this way.

The first time I saw Jenny,
she was backing out of a horse trailer,
resonant hooves on the truck bed,
all muscle and black mane.

The first time I touched her was the first time
I really felt a horse,
her sleek brown skin rippled
because she was alive underneath.

The first time I fed her an apple
she chewed like a lady,
with her mouth closed,
but the sound echoed through her head
like sounds in an underground cave
that had no visible end.

All the while, deep brown eyes
were at the back of that cave,

not focused on me
but seeing my young uncertainty,
my curious hopes,
my scrawny legs hoisted up over her.

She let me sit on her back.

Remembering You in Snow

We were among the last to go over Donner Pass
when they closed the slick road.
A veiled passenger bus in front of our car,
all windows steamy and snow on top,
two snowed-over sedans behind.
We sang “Green Onions” with a Truckee radio station
until the radio died. And long after.

Ate everything in the car, our breath steamed up windows,
yet ice-cold by nightfall, when the heater went out.

We reviewed the Donner Party from Professor Stewart’s class.

We learned to pee in cups, pouring them out the window,
awaiting rescue. The final ride down that hill the best in my life.

We’d married scientists, you were one too,
we divorced them after snow for freer lives, independence,
slept with dark men and light,
lived with others, became bicoastal friends.

We married again, remained on opposite coasts,
me with children in California, you climbing academic heights
in New York.

We still sang, wrote letters, walked when we made time,
shared affairs, our farmhouses in the summer.
We still drive a day to get there from the city.
Whether snowy or sun-bleached, our friendship
survives closed roads, open highways, life choices, snow.