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Monomoy

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Somewhere, people must still do things like fetch
water from wells in buckets, then pour it out
for those animals that, long domesticated, would
likely perish before figuring out how to get
for themselves. That dog, for example, whose
refusal to leave my side I mistook, as a child,
for loyalty — when all along it was just blind ... What
is it about vulnerability that can make the hand
draw back, sometimes, and can sometimes seem
the catalyst for rendering the hand into sheer force,
destructive? Don’t you see how you’ve burnt almost
all of it, all the tenderness, away, someone screams
to someone else, in public — and looking elsewhere,
we walk quickly past, as if even to have heard
that much might have put us at risk of whatever fate
questions like that
                                     spring from. Estrangement — 
like sacrifice — begins as a word at first, soon it’s
the stuff of drama, cue the follow-up tears that
attend drama, then it’s pretty much the difference
between waking up to a storm and waking up
inside one. Who can say how she got there — 
in the ocean, I mean — but I once watched a horse
make her way back to land mid-hurricane: having
ridden, surfer-like, the very waves that at any moment
could have overwhelmed her in their crash to shore, she
shook herself, looked back once on the water’s restlessness — 
history’s always restless — and the horse stepped free.

Source: Poetry (January 2017)

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This poem originally appeared in the January 2017 issue of Poetry magazine

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Monomoy

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