Because Aren’t We All Just Learning to Feel Loved

R.L. Wheeler

It was not a barn, but the skeletal

timber frame filled with morning

light and fodder and still the horses

hungered. Their cremello coats

were shaved, skin flayed white as a flag

claiming surrender. They did not

mean to become this. In their stable

              of no walls, burdened

by the meat of themselves, they lay

there and you pulled the reins. There

is a pasture beyond here, you pleaded

when they tongued the metal bits clean

and sang minor chords into the dry

heat of the field: a song anyone would waltz

alone to, bare feet flirting with the dirt.

              Nights later, you dipped your fingers

in dark buckets of oil paint, smeared

it onto the horses’ backs; landscapes

en plein air. For one: a green pond

in springtime. For another: your body

falling in and in, the herd, thick-hooved,

diving after you — then everyone resurfacing

in a third. You painted and painted.

Pointed and urged the horses to look, look.

              K, when I say I wish I were better

at accepting kindness, what I mean

is I can see the pasture now. I can see it

and all that open grass.


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