Without Understanding or Reason, Disturb the Flesh

Ellen Devlin

Without Understanding or Reason, Disturb the Flesh

A horse broke her leg. She’s
a cowboy’s horse, like in old
westerns, and we see her

fall, one brown eye, wild
and wide looking
out from a sideways head lift,

then heaves herself up, forelegs
quivering, collapses. The cowboy
drew, aimed and did not

shoot. A woman
adopted a boy-soldier from Uganda,
eleven years old who killed

thirty-eight people. He tried to burn
down her house. The cowboy always
shoots the horse. But this one thought

maybe the horse could lie
still and he would keep the curve
of her neck, the warmth of a living

body, he's heard there is a way
of bandaging the leg, trussing
it to the torso. He knows it almost

never works, infection follows,
the horse dies. Therapies were tried
for the boy. He was dealing drugs,

was sent to boarding school. This question
of what to do seemed unexpected
to the cowboy, because

he is an ordinary man. Are horses
made to live briefly,
beautifully, or as long as possible,

all propositions played out
in their blood and bones? Years later,
with every kind of binding, the boy

became a scholar, and wrote:
all this has happened
before, and will again.


We pulled sun
from the only sky
we had. houses
held paintings—
fruit trees, purple
on green walls
in small houses.
Berries gathered
sky, branch, bees.
Summer split
and seeded; ripe
rioted and scattered
the cores. We
buried light
in a root cellar:
we harvest
empty spoons
in empty bowls.

Ellen Devlin has studied poetry at Bread Loaf Writers Conference and The Hudson Valley Writers Center. Her work has been published, or is forthcoming in Poet Lore, New Ohio Review, Redactions: Poetry, Poetics and Prose, Passager, and Womankind, The Poetry of Women as well as online in New Verse News