Counting Horses

Mark Sanders Click to

msandersMark Sanders is a Great Plains native, currently living in Nacogdoches, Texas, where he and his wife Kimberly Verhines operate a small peach orchard and horse farm. His most recent book of poems is Conditions of Grace: New and Selected Poems, and a new collection, Landscapes, with Horses, is due out soon. He has published poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction in such journals as Prairie Schooner, Ninth Letter, River Teeth, Permafrost and Glimmer Train.  “Counting Horses” first appeared in Shenandoah this past summer as a front-page feature.

One, to see the horses still stand,
wind moving manes or sun tilting morning shadows
onto wires and posts enclosing the pasture;
to have them caught in moment and web,
early hum of birds lifting from oaks.

Two, to find them sound upon hooves,
no mare or gelding limping, not one with colic,
not one crone prone and immovable; but—
nod or toss of head, a foot drumming hard ground;
breath and fart and hack on dust in hay.

Three, because the world we roam is unsound,
storms brewing south and west and north,
daylight diminishing; ascensions and declensions,
switchbacks, and flats where water
cannot stand where it should.

Four, because that’s how counting works,
dimes made of our lovelies parceled out,
and deep things, down things,
sweet coins spent and spent again.
The coffee cup cast empty except of need.

Five, because, so long as the horses
are alive, all muscled and beautiful,
what remains fresh and true is grass
blue across morning fields,
things yet as they should be,

perfect, permanent, unretractable.


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