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Horse Apocalypse

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Hrhm Shp, colt-culling,
Is what hoof lore calls it—
The choke-chain sound a roan coined
To describe the things he saw
Before the sniff weevils crept
Up his nostrils and chewed
His eyes at the hue-sweet root.

                      •

Mother mares scare foals
From folly-trots and foxglove
By telling them fury tales
Of muck stirrup-deep and shells
Shoveling Passchendaele
Onto Passchendaele,
The foal fallen with the boy.

                      •

One memory, common
To all breeds, spurs night mares
Sparking down the mute streets
Of their sleep, gas-blind
Witnesses scraping Krupp
Guns over the cobblestones,
Winged sparks breeding in the hay.

                      •

Having watched us box and ditch
Our dead, they thought our dead
Ate termite-runnels
In the black bark of the land
And pulled all horsefolk down
To join whatever dark cavalry
Thundered underground.

                      •

The burlap gas mask cupped
And strapped to the wet snout
Could be mistaken, when
The gas gong sounded
And the men grew fly-heads,
For a feed sack chock-
Full of red ants.
Source: Poetry (April 2012)

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This poem originally appeared in the April 2012 issue of Poetry magazine

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Horse Apocalypse

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