Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Ten Below

It is bad enough crying for children
suffering neglect and starvation in our world
without having on a day like this
to see an old cart horse covered with foam,
quivering so hard that when he stops
the wheels still rock slowly in place
like gears in an engine.
A man will do that, shiver where he stands,
frozen with false starts,
just staring,
but with a man you can take his arm,
talk him out of it, lead him away.

What do you do when both hands
and your voice are simply goads?
When the eyes you solace see space,
the wall behind you, the wisp of grass
pushing up through the curb at your feet?
I have thought that all the animals
we kill and maim, if they wanted to
could stare us down, wither us
and turn us to smoke with their glances—
they forbear because they pity us,
like angels, and love of something else
is why they suffer us and submit.

But this is Pine Street, Philadelphia, 1965.
You don't believe
in anything divine being here.
There is an old plug with a worn blanket
thrown on its haunches. There is a wagon
full of junk—pipes and rotted sinks,
the grates from furnaces—and there
is a child walking beside the horse
with sugar, and the mammoth head lowering,
delicately nibbling from those vulnerable
fingers. You can't cut your heart out.
Sometimes, just what is, is enough.

-C.K. Williams

from Collected Poems
(Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, New York, 2006)


If the horses can brave the cold, then so can we. Let's do this, DC.

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