My horse, my stallion, I ride you unprivate
through whispery villages. Falter not
from their gossip that you were once a man
mimicking an animal’s affectionless muscle
to become more man. Bury beneath
your hooves’ hopscotch these upright beasts
caught in night’s sleight of hand branding omen
in their hair and meat. Watch boys be forced
into men by men who’ve forgotten their own
forcing. Haloes of flies bite the boymen as mules
slobber through wheezy chaff and bridle in a district
of hands. Gaze of denotation, of well-bred
taxidermy, of ghouls misnamed Mandingo
till the weight of their manhood stuck
like a mannerism. Is it loving men that removes
my manacled mouth, mutes my mule dick’s howl
as the gelding knife lands? In this land manicured
by manure and blood, hyacinth and bullets, the tool
and the temper rule while the suicides of sons
feed the softened earth beneath our stampede.
I, too, could learn to neigh and drop dead in this
claustrophobic strobe of fireflies at my flank.
Some beasts were trained to eat their own. Some
were trained to flinch at their own reflections.
Copyright © 2016 Phillip B. Williams
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Alice James Books.