Sunday, March 28, 2010

A Colt's recollection of Palm Sunday

A Colt, The Foal of an Ass
by Robert Siegel

"Contemplating the dust he stands
in the direct unbearable noon, tethered
to the dead thorn. His long ears hang
down, twitch and revolve as the gang of flies
brassily land and bite and ascend
in a constant small black cloud. His hide
at each bite quivers and smooths out
like this earthquake-tormented land,
while his tail, with its bathrobe tassel, larrups
and swats too late.

His eyes, half-lidded
in the bleaching light, are fixed and still,
his plain, dull face perpendicular as a post,
his forelock hanging over it.

He does not
turn toward the stranger who stands talking
with the two at the door. Only his muzzle,
soft as silk and still faintly pink,
twitches as his nostrils catch the foreign scent,
widen, and lift his lip for half a second.

lazily he turns to look, eyes glazed, indifferent,
tugs at the harsh rope once, desists,
patient with donkey patience, already learning
the rough discipline that pulled him from the grass
and his mother's side.

Now, without warning,
as if he feels a tremor underfoot,
some inaudible alarm from the world's core,
he bares his teeth and breaks the air with a sound
like a stone wrenched and crying from its center,
harsh and grating as a rusty hinge
on which the whole earth hangs.

there is a moment with a crowd roaring
in surges long and hoarse as breakers crashing,
cool, green branches to tread over the hot stones,
and flowers which offer a brief fragrance underhoof -
one moment of all those in the years that are to come
of fetching and hauling for masters bad and good,
when he does not mind what he is carrying,
when a sense of joy returns, the early smell
of grass while he first stood, unsteady, in the field
with a beast's dim sense of liberty.

Still, he cannot guess what he is carrying
and will not remember this moment in all the years
until he is worn out, lame,
until the hammer is brought down on his unsuspecting head,
his hooves melted to glue, his hide thrown to the crows -
when he shall return to this now, this always,
he continues to live in,
this moment of bearing the man,
a weight that is light and easy,
celebrated in a rough, ecstatic chorus,
toward his own fatal burden heavier than the world."

taken from A Pentecost of Finches, New & Selected Poems
by Robert Siegel, Paraclete Press, Copyright 2006

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