Equitum Tres Coloratum by Owen McLeod
The clouds above this town rain bones
while children hunker in their caves of dirt.
Outside each house, a black flag waves,
but black now comes in many colors.
Down in the garden, we unearth a horse—
a rearing mustang made of matter
and form, as Aristotle said. The matter
is solid plastic—no blood or bones,
no heart, certainly not the size of a horse.
At five inches tall, it’s a toy in the dirt.
We rub it clean to reveal the colors—
white, brown, and black. We feel waves
of memory, or what seem like waves,
but might be particles of matter,
atoms devoid of taste and colors.
We huddle in the garden shed as bones
strike like spears the freshly plowed dirt.
We swap ancient stories about the horse:
the wooden one of Troy; Siddhartha’s horse,
Kanthaka; the steeds that ride the waves
of the apocalypse. Down in the dirt,
our children wonder what’s the matter
with the weather these days. Are the bones
a sign of something, they ask, like the colors
of our flags? We can’t explain those colors
or the meaning of the weather. The horse
gets passed around; we pray for the bones
to cease, but the clouds come on in waves,
releasing femurs, clavicles, ossified matter
of all sorts, pounding our crops into the dirt.
The children are quiet in their caves of dirt.
A girl with a box of crayons colors
every picture black in a matter-
of-fact way, including a winged horse.
A trembling boy peeks from the cave’s mouth, waves
at his father through the hail of bones.
Does any of it matter? In the end we are bones,
destined for dirt. Yet (and yet!) the boy’s father waves,
unfurls his colors, and flies to his son on the plastic horse.
Owen McLeod is a potter and professor of philosophy at Lafayette College. His poems recently appear or are forthcoming in Field, Massachusetts Review, Missouri Review, New England Review, The Yale Review, and elsewhere.