173: Strong Men, Riding Horses

173: Strong Men, Riding Horses

Strong Men, Riding Horses
by Tishani Doshi

(after Gwendolyn Brooks)

The men in my life come back strong. 
Fat off the agony of summers gone, these men
no longer think to write or call before riding
intro dreams with Lugers and Stetsons. On horses.
All wrong. They charge in. They charge in
like assassins through floorboards and fairings. The
men in my life grow spring-like out West.
Cowboys with taches and gingham chests, adrift on
the lawns in banishment. O, the infinity of a
grown man who waits. The candidates range
from primate to giant. Faces morose as funerals. Five
years unravel into five hundred.
So many disappeared miles. 
The men in my life hold secrets like spears. A
would-be husbands circle the border, reaching
for navel, face, breastplate, rope. And from
everything you imagined that was not, comes dawn,
spidery and wet, releasing them back to
the West, to where they rode in from. Sunset
restores them with harmonicas, rested
and keen for a-battering again. Yesterday’s blue-
tongued blades of grass. All the paths to
longing are recurring and paved with orange
trees, earthquakes, other women’s men. From
here the future blooms like a prehistoric fish of hope:
flat-headed, obdurate. The lesson being to
submerge, to listen to the music of bones crying
as they are changed from gills to hoof. Except
for the fossils gathered at our feet, that
insist with an architecture ancient and strong,
what can we say about empires of harmony, 
of men who ride horses? Treacherous as they are,
we must counter these phantoms, desert-eyed.
for sleep, nothing is ever finished, and all that
remains of night is a rooftop in summer, a strong
wind from the sea, birds, hay, a family of men
with high foreheads, picking their teeth. They are
lurching toward you with balsam and pasted-
down hair. Breath jangly with fear. To
have survived the ever-present restlessness of stars.
Wake now. All that we mourn is here already.

“Strong Men, Riding Horses" by Tishani Doshi. Copyright © 2018 from GIRLS ARE COMING OUT OF THE WOODS by Tishani Doshi. Used by permission of Bloodaxe Books.