Associate poetry editor Becky Pelky on today’s poem: In Sarah Sousa’s “Sometimes They Keep a Horse,” it’s the things that are missing that speak loudest, the absences that prick us like needles, an emptiness sewn in stitches so small they’re almost invisible. But with every line the things disappeared bind us more tightly to the silent figures, the hunched “they.” I imagine a mother plying needle and horse-hair thread in some corner of white space, the last reminder of a lost child plucked out, stitch by stitch, and then re-sewn into a pattern of broken fence posts around an empty field. I imagine a father watching endlessly from behind white curtains while life becomes still-life, until the answering voice in the last line falls with a finality of sharp scissors, cutting us off from all hope. This poem reminds us of the losses we carry with us, the ones we can’t look at, the ones we’ve tried to patch with scraps of painted canvas.
Sometimes They Keep a Horse
Sometimes they keep a horse in the pen,
a stout horse beside his batten shed.
Some days that plot is empty,
fence posts stand like bitten fingers.
A stout horse beside his sway-backed shed—
the daughter’s horse, daughter’s gone;
fence posts like missing fingers.
Comes the man from town with soothing sounds and rope.
The daughter’s horse. Daughter’s gone.
A clothesline flaps with clipped wings,
whisperings and rope.
Sometimes they keep a horse beside the roses.
The clothesline flaps with clipped wings
out of a painting in lime and ochre.
See the horse? See the roses?
No. That plot is empty.
Sarah Sousa’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Massachusetts Review, Barn Owl Review, Cider Press Review, and Salt Hill Journal. Her first collection won the Red Mountain Press Prize and will be published in May 2014; he second collection will be published in late 2014 by Free Verse Editions. She holds an MFA from Bennington College and lives in Western Massachusetts with her husband and two sons.