When one is a child one cannot tell
Calvary from cavalry, the hill
for the horsemen. Each means your death.
Letters are trees.
Behind them something
walks, or struggles. You strain to see
just what sort of beast this is.
Not a nice one, perhaps. Not like
the sleeping kitten,
or the Sunday school lambs.
There may be an army in the forest
and not kind at all.
A nick in the lead-based paint.
Or the soldiers themselves, soft & heavy.
Something walks behind them
and it might be language.
Language, the adults hiss, at the older boys
and girls with their musky scents, some-
times at each other.
As if what is hidden
comes to light, in this forest.
And if the figures be melted down, cast
& sharpened– Here
is the church, and here
is the steeple.
The fingers inside blind.
Like the alphabet.
You add eyes—twin pricks—to the
O, to the e. And stand
corrected. Smooth, yes as a trunk, yes.
As the seam of a soldier.
Will I make a good one, you wonder. Just then,
beyond your range of vision, something
aim. In the distance a bald hill.
Bare. Someone or something has left it.
A loamy odor, as of shirts
worn by men.
And you hear the baying, no
the neighing of horses.
The one with the black mane is the one
you like best.
It is a blind horse, but powerful.
It has thrown its rider.
Wounded, he has hidden himself. In the forest.
From which you cannot tear your
error. Or the barrel of your toy musket.
Your own lips moving. By way of
invitation. Or reply.
Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd 2007
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of BOA Editions LTD.