“Equus” by William Wright

Dusks a blue smolder of memory:
Your grandfather fades behind the creak
of the barn door, mouth trembling with sermons
lodged forever behind his tongue. You breathe

dust and drink the well’s rust-water,
then slog in the heat of horses,
saddled by noon rains, mud choking the yield.
Nights, back in the stanch purity of those rooms,

with soap-burned hands you wrap your head
with words: sorghum and lantern, cellar and sin.
Then down into image, the earth’s nightlong gift:
Your mother’s scarred hands fondling the plump coinage

of tomatoes, the pox of aphids washed immaculate.
Her gloves uncoiling barbed wire, gauzing the reddening scrape.
The hiss and warmth of embers, cedar-smoke’s tang.
Always she dims again beneath black water

as mornings wrest you from sleep like a breech foal
torn loose, shivering in the hay.

posted by Mansie Hough

William Wright was born in Edgefield County, South Carolina. He is one of the editors for The Southern Poetry Anthology, and has authored five collections of poems featured in numerous revered literary journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Creative Writing (Poetry) and Literature from the University of Southern Mississippi. Wright is currently serving as visiting writer at the University of Tennessee.  “Equus” was originally published in Shenandoah, Volume 61 No. 1.

In the poem’s first line, Wright immediately notifies the reader that “Equus” deals with the way nature can evoke one’s memory. “Dusks a blue smolder of memory” paints a picture of a particularly wistful and nostalgic atmosphere on a southern night. This theme of nature’s relationship with human memory continues to appear throughout “Equus.” In the third stanza, Wright notes that “the image” is “the earth’s nightlong gift.” While this can be interpreted many different ways, it links back to the poem’s opening line in the sense that nature creates and gives us our memories.

“Equus” is also a great example of poetry being what some call “the sacrament of the mundane.” When the poem’s subject is rocked back into his or her memories, we are presented with retelling of rather ordinary tale. We see a grandfather standing in a barn. We feel the rusty water, dusty air, and wet rainstorms. We are standing next to a mother tending to crops and vegetables. The narrator is walking us through the daily enjoyments, frustrations, and observations of someone’s everyday life by way of memory.

This slow-paced yet vibrant poem calls attention to the way we as human beings can extract bliss and adventure from seemingly inconsequential moments. As readers, we should be encouraged by Wright to create the same simple pleasures and interesting anecdotes by actively living our lives and remembering those we share it with.