Honore Daumier, Musée d'Orsay
And, like you, the boiled green egg yolk clay of the slopes behind you
never could have imagined the dead mule haunch skin swell in front of you,
the way the tongue laps the ground even after heat and strain
made standing and breathing futile.
The belly expands from within, one of you will say (in Spanish, of course)
once you trot again, closer.
What is the gas that builds and builds until the hide splits
and ants and worms take over? the other will ask.
And the birds. And the animals with tearing teeth, the first will say. Ash accelerated.
The sky opens behind those trees, and it would be easy for one of you then
to say something about promise in the mottled blue, in the clouds rusting, in their patina.
But really it is another sunrise or sunset. (Maybe you don’t even know which.)
And the horseshoes on the crushed stones are nothing but powder,
nothing but pausing, nothing but shifting weight.
John Walser, an associate professor at Marian University (WI), holds a doctorate in English from UW-Milwaukee. His poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Barrow Street, Nimrod, Hiram Poetry Review, Fourth River and Lunch Ticket. A 2013 Pablo Neruda Prize semifinalist, he is working on three manuscripts of poems.