Flinch


By M.E. Hope

I.

There was no sun that day the colt broke
through sod into the wasps’ nest. As the hive boiled
out of the cool earth a dark hissing cloud,
the surprise forced him into the barbed wire
and those teeth were deeper and meaner
than the hornets’ stings.

By the time the boy arrived home the horse
was in the barn, the vet’s bag empty: wounds
bandaged and sewn; welts along his neck and flank;
great patches of hair shorn; iodine staining his white fetlock.
He stood, head down, sick from the venom
and antibiotic and the waning
adrenaline. The boy crouched close
felt the horse’s hot and shallow
breath, leaned against the manger’s
lip and wept; too tenderhearted.
His father sent him into the house. 

II.

He helped the woman up the road
with her chickens and goats. Rode his scarred
gelding along the ditch, respected
the horse’s hesitation whenever something
hissed or buzzed. Held firm for the flinch;
though the horse never ran again.

III.

And he marched away one June;
this is what children here do.
Took his soft heart and steady hands
to corpsman school and then followed
some grunts into the desert. Learned to stitch
and wrap bandages and comfort as he could.
Talked to the people he met about chickens
and goats and their scarred horses. Watched
the sands bloom into hives. Felt the fevered hum
in his bones, learned to stand steady and firm.


M.E. Hope is an ex-pat who fell off the wagon and is suddenly back in Europe, (Belgium this time) after eleven years in Oregon where she dabbled in organizing poetry (and pie) events, received a writing residency at Playa (http://www.playasummerlake.org/), and garnered a 2013 Individual Artist Fellowship from the Oregon Arts Commission.

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