Swimming,
by Wendy Taylor Carlisle

Grownups warned us about the treachery of horses,
their devious tempers, their suspicion, dark as

a hay barn, that could sink them to their knees,
roll them over on you in a split second. Every

pliant muzzle hid grinding teeth. White-showing
eyes, fickle hindquarters were adages against the certain

pleasures I knew: a wing of breeze, the lifting
haunches, the trumpet-nostrils sighing against my palm

The weekend’s caveat flew past my neck
like a hoof, as Florida heat gathered the dirt, black

into my elbow crease and crusted my dusty breath
in my nose. My pony trekked with me through the palmettos

scrub, the man-dug hills, the haze-hung flats. I panted
and longed for wet hair and the rock pits’ white sand

edge where I would draw my breath back, startled
again by a feast of green water and knee my mare

out from the beach quick, before she panicked,
wheeled, in a frantic splash toward land. Swimming, her

hindquarters sank, her neck rode up like a seahorse,
her front hooves flailed the afflicted surface.

And if later I should slide off over water-slicked withers,
my mount plunging and splashing and if

a horseshoe found my back just where wings might form,
pushed down hard, when I broke the surface, spitting,

it was up to me to understand it wasn’t malice put me there
but need for certainty, for shore.

Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 14, Issue 1.

Wendy Taylor Carlisle lives in the Ozark Mountains. Her two books are Reading Berryman to the Dog (Jacaranda Press, 2000) and Discount Fireworks (Jacaranda Press, 2008.) Read more about her work at www.wendytaylorcarlisle.com. www.wendytaylorcarlisle.com.

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