A Horse Is Not Always A Horse

by Natasha Bailey

Enter chorus of Trojan women

I lived once by everyday things,
in my everyday house and its four-cornered floors.
I swept them with complaint, swept without,
felt free to leave with bad grace
if a friend told a filthy joke in front of the children.
Mine was the house with the tree, umbrella pine,
I used to toast the nuts, a summer snack
to be crunched under the braziers at night
as if we knew that tomorrow we would always be happier.
We ate those nights too fast,
counting on a second course.
What did the white bubble of the moon matter,
we would see millions more-
Artemis wouldn’t snuff out her lantern on our account-
a perfunctory prayer would do as thanks.
We were too poor this year, we’d say,
next year we would fatten a calf to kill.
War couldn’t touch me under that tree,
stayed a splinter under my nails
found its way to me only on my husband’s hands,
the boots I scrubbed, the tunic I bleached.
He was merrier then, men love a good war
blood gets them roaring drunker than the best beer.
The horse was the candle on the cake.
They pulled down the walls to drag it in,
this simple belief that a horse is only a horse;
my husband got misty-eyed about his old pet
Sparky, a carthorse – he’d looked the same.
We didn’t know to distrust gifts yet,
so we drank too much and went to bed,
stuck the spears in the mud outside.
I wore my best robe on the last night,
he peeled me from it like a tangerine,
I, the segments to be shared- that sweetness
that breaks my burned heart.
That dead future. Soft ash on the sea
carrying away the ships.