On my camera yesterday
I hit the wrong button and your island
was erased: the tide pool where, floating,
we talked about our mothers;
the weird trough, made of lava,
behind your papayas—if you could turn over
one of its tadpoles again, the belly
would still be a fleck
of corroded mirror, breathing, so ugly
unable to reflect back the world.
The napping horse
is gone too. Deleted. To reach him
I hiked up the peak alone in sandals,
past false cairns that got me lost.
I never told you how scared I was,
not knowing where to step next
as a storm blew in… He was lying on his side.
I got too close. He woke with a puff
and stood up in the rain. He looked away,
too proud to be curious.
I refused to sing to him. Now I’ll never
know for sure, while he twitched
from dreaming and the flies,
if all four hooves were pointing my way.
What his shadow was like
on the drained bog. How much of his mane
covered his eyes.
But to reach that grave
all we had to climb was a hill.
The grave was empty, I do remember that,
except for a hornet nest,
empty, big as your head,
with a grain like that of birch.
It was the underside I couldn’t stop
shooting, vents for body heat,
as you read in the shade.
How many holes were there,
in what pattern?
What did the top look like?
It was a bit like our home:
made with mouths, honeyless—
you did it darling but you’re not at rest
Greg Wrenn is the author of Centaur, which Terrance Hayes awarded the Brittingham Prize in Poetry. A former Stegner Fellow and Jones Lecturer at Stanford University, he is an assistant professor of English at James Madison University. Wrenn is currently working on Row, a memoir about using the ocean to heal from childhood trauma, and Origin, his second poetry collection.
Header photo by Sari ONeal, courtesy Shutterstock.