45 miles west of Pittsburgh
Easy old girl, John says as he offers the mare a cantaloupe rind. The horse, lying in the creek, isn’t interested. We got to get you out of this cold water and back with the others, he says. They miss you old girl. There, you hear that? Henri. He’s saying, get up out of the creek dummy and back here with us.
* * *
Skip puts a napkin in the book he bought at a yard sale on top the hill, gets up from the kitchen table and opens the door.
Got a horse down in the creek, John says.
Where’d she get out?
I don’t know.
Most of that fence along the creek needs work.
How long’s she been down?
Likely a while.
Feeding them this morning I heard this noise like a lamb.
What do you want to do? Skip asks.
Figure with your truck strap and my come-along
we can get her up.
Well, we can sure try.
Skip climbs the steps slow and tells Lillian he’s got something to do. Then he goes down in the cellar and puts on his overalls and boots.
* * *
She looks like hell, Skip says.
You’ll still want to watch with that strap, expect she may kick.
Whoa now, John says and slips the strap under her shoulder. She spooks. He loses his footing in the muck. Fuck, Skip says. John scrambles uphill as she thrashes about.
* * *
He manages to get the strap where they have a chance. Skip slowly ratchets the hand-winch. Again, she turns and the strap slides over her neck.
Dag-gone-it, Skip says.
You got a doctor’s appointment, don’t you?
It’s Lillian’s, but I need to drive.
Probably should get back to the house,
Skip says looking at his watch.
Hell, you’d think we could’ve helped her.
Could if she’d stop kicking
and I could get that strap under her belly.
That tree limb isn’t helping us any.
No it isn’t.
Running the saw doesn’t seem like a good idea.
No it don’t.
Well, I’ll keep at it.
* * *
John breaks off a stem of sassafras, puts it in his mouth. He looks at the wood smoke rising from the chimney, then closes his eyes. He prays for the horse the way he’d pray for heifers to calve before a storm.
* * *
Got you some nut roll.
How’d you make out? Skip says,
as he sits next to John on the porch.
Little while after you left,
it was like she just quit.
You shoot her?
Nah, didn’t have to.
Seemed pretty dead.
See you used the tractor.
Yep, drug her out with a chain.
That part was easy.
How’s Lil holding up?
They say she’ll likely lose her hair.
How about we don’t say nothing to Lillian
for a while. She liked that horse.
Something about the color.
Review by Dennis Hinrichsen
“45 miles west of Pittsburgh,” like a previous poem, is a slow burn through character and scene. What I admire most about this poem is the inversion, that is, how much time is spent on the men working with the horse trapped in the creek versus what the poem is really “about,” that is, how they are protecting the female character in the poem who herself is trapped in a kind of creek, cancer, and will hear nothing of what has transpired regarding the horse. Again, here, I admire how dense in real world detail this poem is, yet mapped like the previous one with generous amounts of white space to create a lyrical frame for the work. In a way, this poem is a perfect extension, or counterpoint, to the lead poem in this set.
Review by Jared Pearce
The parallel between the woman and the horse opens a consideration much talked about in the past decade and increasingly now. The poem makes questions about how much to trust one’s health to others, how much to consider health care scientifically and/or holistically very poignant.