Wednesday Poem

At the Horse Pavilion

We lost you once,
at the Horse Pavilion, on a day
of snappy wind beating five flags

above that brilliant nightmare green
in the sun and beyond prayer but ready to
live on a diet of it for the rest of our days,

we ducked and ran among faces made blank or tender
by our terror, so that we understood for the first time
that this was the way the world was truly divided:

into those faces that could be startled into goodness,
and those that could not, but none of them worth
anything at all to us except for what

they could tell us as we kept calling out to them
the only words left to us, A little boy!, and the
colours of the clothes you were wearing, while the

polished horses kept mindlessly
clearing gates that were hardships,
but distant, whitewashed, the hardships of others,

and sounds mocked us too, in that whinnied
bright air–a ring of faint surf, the civil, evil
sound of horsemen's applause, and we ran into

each other and ran back and ran through the
stadium of stalls and sick straw-smell and ran out
into the sun of the Pavilion's mud plaza

and there you were, on the other side
of the soot track that led toward the weeping
green park, your eyes fixed without flinching

on the main doorway, waiting for us to come out
sometime before dark and we fled to you, crying
your name and I could see in your eyes

how hard you'd been standing your ground
against terror, how long you'd been forbidding
yourself to invent us, as if in inventing us you'd have

lost all chance to see us come out to you,
but how brilliant you seemed, having saved yourself
from harm, you didn't know it, you turned

your face to the taut thigh of my skirt,
not to cry, and we walked that way,
my hand holding your head to me while I

could have sworn I could feel you inhaling
what I was thinking through the skirt's grass-engraved
cotton: Until this moment I never knew what love is.

by Elisabeth Harvor
from Fortress of Chairs. Vehicule Press, 1992