What We Know of Horses from Issue 85
& when my brother says Swann Rd. is the world,
he ignores boarded vacants, broken windows—this place’s
shattered glass? He tells me to believe the world
is a tenement house, a pocket full of stones, a world
of ghosts, & what’s left of ash & smoke after each inhale.
I visit him now that a prison cell holds his world.
Dead men circle every block we know, thread this world
with quotes from psalms, “the sorrows of death embrace
me,” “some trust in chariots and some in horses.” They embrace
metaphor, disbelieve gravity, breathe in a haunted world.
& what of my brother? Running these streets, he was a horse—
graceful, destined to be broken. Why admire horses?
Why compare everything fast & beautiful to horses?
My daddy’s generation had a saying for men lost in the world,
it was true of my uncle, my cousin—men strung out on horse,
men chasing the dragon, shivering with the memory of horse,
that stallion gone postal in their veins—called them lost in place,
stuck on the nod—with cities buried inside them—horses
inside them stampeding. My brother put all his faith in horse,
& there is no map to find him now. He tells me he inhales
the funk of men doing life sentences & knows he is in hell,
knows that he is no better than the foul smelling dung of horses,
that he has dug his own grave amongst bricks that embrace
him. He is an exile, with only rusted iron bars & bricks bracing
his two hundred pounds. Who will admit this cage embraces
him? His life taught me “history is written on the back of the horse”
broken by the world. We all in prison now, we all bracing
for a cell. I stare at this man, my kin ruined by embracing
night. Call this place a horsecollar, a way to redefine a world,
& watch how it cuts into skin, how the leather embraces
all of our necks. Even as a visitor behind plate glass I brace
myself for cuffs. This is not Swann Rd., this burden placed
on me, these memories of courtrooms & the places
where bodies were found. & still, I want to stop & embrace
my brother, to hold him close to me & pause to inhale
the scent of prison, to tell him what I smell, what I inhale,
is still the body of a man. He says, “lil Bro, my spirit is in hell.”
He say, “I know the whole story.” He’s lost in memories he embraces:
the dope, the capers, the dice games. How can a man inhale
so much violence & not change? I light my Newport, inhale.
Think on how his voice has changed. My man, now a feral horse
wearing kick chains, unable to sleep, always on guard, inhaling
the air for prey, as if he is still the predator, as if he can inhale
death & keep on living. Death is the elephant in this world.
I imagine the other men here, all in a world of hurt, a world
filled with a casket’s aftermath. How much grief can you inhale?
My brother tells me he prays at night, he wants to leave this place.
Who blames him. But we know all his wild hours placed
him in this mural of blood on a stained glass. His hunger placed
him in C-block, cell 21. He tells me it suffocates him, makes inhaling
fresh air harder & harder to believe in. Nothing replaces
time. “You okay in here,” I ask my dude. But he’s in a place
that only he knows. When he walks away from me he embraces
the kind of rage I fear. A man was killed near him, placed
on a gurney & rushed down a sidewalk. Dead in a place
where no one gives a fuck if you’re breathing. To be a horse
galloping away is what I want for him, he wants horse
trundling through his scarred veins. Prison has taken the place
of freedom, even in his dreams. This is not a “world
where none is lonely.” & I know, he is lost to the world,
& I know he believes this: “I shut my eyes & all the world
is dead,” & I know that there is still a strip, a place
that he believes is the world: Swann Rd., where he can inhale
& be free. Sometimes his cuffs are on my wrists & I embrace
the way they cut, as if I am the one domesticated, a broken horse.