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Excerpt of "A Poem about Blackboy’s Horse" by Bertrand Bickersteth

"A Poem about Blackboy’s Horse" by Bertrand Bickersteth

Boy’s horse stepped in a badger’s hole, lost her footing
and fell. Boy was flipped
in the air. His foot caught in the stirrup. He felt a pain
shoot through his ankle,
felt the inertia of his flight take over the topography, twist
westerly, still tilting to the east.
His body was a loose spigot pivoting around the fulcrum
of a meaningless ankle.
He felt his fingers slipping through her withers, felt the fear
of the horse rushing to the ground
above him. He couldn’t stop any of it. Couldn’t stop himself
from imagining the unknowable
impact or the whistle of weight to follow. He knew what was
coming. He knew the soil
he was headed for. Knew its knowledge. The chemistry of
its creativity: mildly gleysolic
chernozem, churning life and his livelihood as he knew it.
Knew it, too, as foreign, as far
from familiar as he was from family. He tried to imagine a family
but their image burst into the falling
air before him, before fading, as always, into the darkness
of dirt. Then came the weight
of sadness and the piercing pain of the forgone, unmentioned,
unmurmured, like that flash of green,
that patch of wild timothy whose individual blades know nothing
of their shared past,
know nothing of their sibling entanglement, nothing at all
of their intertwined roots
whose domain is the catacombs beneath the crust, whose action
is downward groping, like fingers of ancestry,
a blind quest in the sorrow of soil, forever fumbling, forever finicking
for the unknowable mother of darkness.
— Bertrand Bickersteth
is the author of The Response of Weeds. His poetry has appeared in numerous publications including Geist, The Walrus, and Grain. He is currently working on a collection of poems on Black cowboys. He lives in Moh’kins’tsis (Calgary) and teaches at Olds College, both in Treaty 7 Territory.