“Poem in Search of a Horse” by Hayden Saunier

Hayden Saunier


Time is not reading the poem as you
read the poem, but rest assured he’s slipped
inside the room in his soft, polished shoes,
with his little cough, his bowler hat in hand,
so sorry to disturb. It isn’t that he doesn’t like
to read, he loves to lean across your shoulder,
let you feel his breath, a delicate subzero
on your neck, but he’s impatient with anything
but haiku. Ignore him. He’ll pretend
he doesn’t care, proceed to wind the clocks
with tiny keys or stretch out on a sofa, tap
a tree branch on a pane and wait you out.
Meanwhile, the poem persists in its solitary
business of resisting being made, trying
the usual tactics: silence, tantrum, argument
over rules of play until the stuck mind panics,
a tarantula in hot tar, shouts words out
like charades: moon! anapest! plumage! boat!
desperate to drown out that silence accompanying
the figure in the well-cut suit who’s polishing
the gold case of his pocket watch, remarking
how words pile up like big rigs on a fogged-in
freeway: apple! rainfall! pasture! bell! and even
when the poem finds some purchase, scrambles
up a narrow footpath through a field and stands
inside a grassy insect buzz, holding out
a shaky palm of sugar to conjure up a horse,
a distant train will whistle, spooking anything
half wild. You’re back exactly where you started.
Cough-cough. Soft shoes. Tick-tock. No horse.

from Rattle #31, Summer 2009


Hayden Saunier: “I had lost my bearings inside the poem I was working on and needed something to power and ground it, but I’d made too big a mess. I’d ruined it. So I let the search take over. The tarantula image is an echo from a poem called ‘Fence’ by Janet Poland and became an apt figure for the mucked, grasping mind.” (web)

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