A Horse Named Never

At the stables, each stall was labeled with a name.

Biscuit stood aloof — I faced, always, invariably, his clockwork tail.

Crab knew the salt lick too well.

Trapezoid mastered stillness: a midnight mare, she was sternest and tallest, her chest stretched against the edges of her stall.

I was not afraid of Never, the chestnut gelding, so rode his iron haunches as far as Panther Gap.

Never and I lived in Virginia then.

We could neither flee nor be kept.

Seldom did I reach the little mountain without him, the easy crests making valleys of indifferent grasses.

What was that low sound I heard, alone with Never?

A lone horse, a lodestar, a habit of fear.

We think of a horse less as the history of one man and his sorrows than as the history of a whole evil time.

Why I chose Never I’ll never know.

I fed him odd lettuce, abundant bitterness.

Who wore the bit and harness, who was the ready steed.

Never took the carrot, words by my own reckoning, an account of creeks and oystercatchers.

Our hoof-house rested at the foot of the mountain, on which rested another house more brazen than statuary.

Let it be known: I first mistook gelding for gilding.

I am the fool that has faith in Never.

Somewhere, a gold door burdened with apology refuses all mint from the yard.

More Poems by Jennifer Chang