Spanish horses caused a round wound
in the troupe
for their little feet
in the swamp sunk
and their lungs lost purchase
under their doomed crap.
At night nothing,
just waiting, empty-faced, piercing stars.
Brushed, saddled, masked, last time.
Tomorrow the lowest men lash a raft
slowly, brains roiling like fog
over tables of steaming boar,
quivering hashes, jellies sheened like gold, horns of churros,
musky licorice curds frizzed with dragées, beer to ears,
ragouts with lilypads of thigh-white mushrooms,
footed dishes of bluish whipt cream
sweet as day,
1/287th of a horse.
The boys dug a thin pit.
Mites and gnats mined their backs.
Thick birds whooped in the black canopy,
endless but heavenless.
Their god weighing coins, shouldered over.
Their god is great because he isn’t.
On the opposite bank:
naked animals, black
One oboe note
focuses them as they crest cedar highlands.
Roots of mountains swell from glades hot as souls.
The boy shored eyes
at the soft nooks of the Mon,
dark under branches, dark with sweet cold,
floating shoals of fry,
A cuckoo spools a ticker tape of sobs
towards the group. A transfixed cat
chatters a curse. Down, down, dark,
the black laurel maze thickens, star poked
with a flotilla of phosphorescing nits,
drunk and busy. Glossy leaves like a billion beetlebacks.
Inside, the hollow place of a piano,
cold as if remembered.
Extinct light does wend
to and from
Men flatten down in clumps.
The boy sleeps, mewling some,
just off from the advance group, there,
and neck is not cut.
Peeps stars, aerial glyphs:
my sheet I cannot fold,
my coins I cannot count.
All morning things come to eat.
He holds still
beyond the charnel, squished ribs.
Dagger, broken chain, mink hairlock, pistol, packet of lard, tack, pallet,
he packs and walks.
Mallow and seventop turnip crackles under.
Spits some clear code onto moss—
shapes of mountain people.
Dust lights on some world in him,
white buildings but faceless. A new glen
edge opens, and he runs now,
and settles where he hits,
and each night rinses him,
and anger feels a little farther to go.
I think this
is the land. No real pyramids here but
the plain numbs.
Some dark cows with delicate ankles and wool all snarled
mass over the hills like sliding timber.
Eyes are shallow, everything shakes.
Some freakish ground bird
wallops lonesome oinks.
These highlands could never be spent.
A wilderness just bald
with goldlessness, this grownover sea, stuff willed
becomes transcripts of will.
Without you, kin spread
into hollows and slopes
where bantam almanacs sprout
and coop genes.
On the prairie the sky grinds down all into chastity.
Forge full speed for two days towards sunrise
and nothing changes—bowl horizon, unpathable grass!
Black cloud vortices rip space,
Captain is stung in the trunk,
under armpit, and rips the arrow out mechanically—
the world shrinks to a gem,
and he holds the hole, warm wet,
familiar, just where
a mother’s hand would grip to pick him up.
Men snake him to some sidelong copse,
bent in arrowrain. Girls in white veils bow to kiss him.
They get a little sharp.
He can smell their
primrose and cedar. See, he paws broadly,
the world is but small,
and I have proved it.
Swept back to one sunset,
into which the ship had hurried, hurried into
what they had taken for land and was nothing but clouds.
The sea quaked like a river, soft and mild.
Molly Brodak is the author of A Little Middle of the Night (U of Iowa Press, 2010) and three chapbooks of poetry: Instructions for a Painting (GreenTower Press, 2007), The Flood (Coconut Books, 2012) and Essay on Parts of Day (Horseless Press, 2013). She held the 2011--2013 Poetry Fellowship at Emory University and lives in Atlanta.