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Portrait of the Horse

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Sometimes the horse is simply a horse.
               Sometimes the horse is a stalwart
               bearer of bodies.
                              Sometimes the horse is stubborn,
                              refusing to ford the river,
or the horse is a mistake
               in the vapor, what looks like a horse
                              emerging out of a thrust
                              of fog on Telegraph Avenue.
There’s the perpetual feeling of being
               overdressed for summer
               and underdressed for spring.
                              I’m variously sweat or shudder.
I mistake the strange bodies
for those I owe apologies to,
               oversleep and open my eyes on
               the clock radio, the time a typo,
                              the apartment a disaster.
Sometimes the horse is a disaster
or the horse is time in a trot or a canter.
               Sometimes the horse is a boy
               growing in time into a man
                              who often laments,
                              A horse, a horse, my kingdom, etc.
But there is no horse.
               There are two days good and one day bad
                              without any hint of a horse.
Sometimes speaking about the horse
is a means of avoiding speaking
               about myself which is lousy.
                              Late last night myself
                              regarding another carelessly.
Late last night my body
with a temporary body.
               The horse is the taut metaphor for sex,
                              but sometimes the horse is the taut silence after.
Sometimes the horse is the silence
after her body rises
               in the embarrassment of morning
               and leaves,
                              and this silence is filled
                              with less than remorse
but with more than indifference.
               This is a feeling there is no word for.
                              What I decided in place of what I needed.
I should eat better.
               I should vacuum more often.

                              I should settle down
                              and raise a young horse.

Sometimes the horse is unspoken,

               the horse is this feeling
               that will be forgotten,

                              is the self unable to alter its ineffable horse.

Late last night, a pervasive clopping
of the horse on the hill.

               Late last night, the horse as a foghorn
               over the Bay.

                              I should be rained on.
                              I should not be forgiven.

Jaswinder  Bolina, "Portrait of the Horse" from Phantom Camera.  Copyright © 2013 by Jaswinder  Bolina.  Reprinted by permission of New Issues Press.
Source: Phantom Camera (New Issues Press, 2013)
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Portrait of the Horse

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  • Born in Chicago, poet Jaswinder Bolina earned a BA in philosophy from Loyola University in Chicago, an MFA in creative writing from the University of Michigan, and a PhD in English with a creative writing concentration from Ohio University. He is the author of the chapbook The Tallest Building in America (2014), and the poetry collections Carrier Wave (2007), winner of the 2006 Colorado Prize for Poetry, and Phantom Camera (2013), which won the Green Rose Prize in Poetry from New Issues Press and was published in an international edition by Hachette India.

    Compared to poets as diverse as John Ashbery, James Tate, and Dean Young, Bolina investigates language, experience, and innovative writing. Poet Ravi Shankar, writing on The Best American Poetry blog, noted that Bolina “breaks new perceptual and sonic ground,” adding “he encapsulates the American South Asian immigrant experience, at least as I’ve experienced it.”

    Bolina was the 2010–2011 Elma...

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