BY SHANNON ELIZABETH HARDWICK
I Hear Cantering
Beaten, the fig hung over his featherbed.
You look so much better, he said,
In the afternoon. I can see
a cracked shell with a hole
in the forest of his throat.
I bet you were a beautiful boy,
lungs filled with the divine.
I’m sorry I couldn’t let myself
open to the city where you live,
in a room with another,
skinnier version of me. Tell me
if it hurts when I press here.
It is most humid under my heart
in a valley of sycamores. A swarm
of bees beating you down, this is desire—
a wave in the afternoon in a room without
windows. I promise, if you want them,
my horses will be sound inside you.
You could have been a saint kissing
babies, mothers’ bellies, on their way
inside clinics. You could have held a gun
to your head. Instead—we never think
of this, how what we create, once breathing,
writes its own stoned path to the top of the mountain.
Mary before the conception,
before my hard won freedom
rose above my head,
that night there were red robed monks, praying
over bowls of rice-milk. Simple men smiling
in New York, a series of dreams
where I am walking toward do not
open the chest (or was it a horse trough)
there was water, I know
for sure because a severed head
does not turn black in soil alone.
The red robed monks returned
two times the following fall.
I was with another man then.
Even still, the past
I carried you, dreamed
the burden of being
becoming your ship—it went
like this: first, a series of plates
hung from the ceiling & below,
the red robed men unable
to feast on what was waiting to be
taken, I reached out
every hunger grew more in the roof-field
I could not keep myself from wanting.
Shannon Elizabeth Hardwick received her MFA from Sarah Lawrence College. Her first full-length book, Before Isadore, is forthcoming from Sundress Publications. She is an associate poetry editor for The Boiler Journal. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in the following: Salt Hill, Stirring, Versal, The Texas Observer, Devil's Lake, Four Way Review, among others. Hardwick also has chapbooks out with Thrush Press and Mouthfeel Press. She writes in the deserts of West Texas.