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John Horváth, Jr.


Over the Fence

Over the backyard fences of the night
on the backbones of mules like Jesus
the young ride their desires to the city
into the broodmare cracks of alleyways
hallelujah-shouting corners of neon-lit
districts where they drink to manhood misgiven in sin
eat up their bread of virginity ruptured and remark
at the disloyalty of vein's blood mixed up with greed—
they take their dollars from family coffers for coffins
do the boys from the outerbanks of the Yalobush River
to the fellows who never cross the tracks over picket
fences of puberty into open spaces of coming-to-be who'd
rather discuss with their workmate weekday dinnerguests
how it's always "those damn people" who live "over there"
who come to "no-good" like nogood's a church for soulless
and restless boneroller boys breastfed on weak moonshine.

Just as I in my city of leisure remember it: drinking
beer out of season and overturning those outhouses
where I piss-filled waterballoons thrown at teachers
choked down first rye and felt a warm breast recoil
from inexperienced grasp. Now deeper more exquisite
crimes they discover farther afield from my own past
than I from my father's, and I like my father can warn
only "nothing will flourish in backyards of some families;
Nothing will grow in the gardens of someone's tomorrows
in those long mornings after too many dreams of beyond
when whitewashed pickets of night will be undreamed."

Along the Yalobush River toward setting sun one after another
fence limits planted cotton and maize, poppies and weed over-
grown patches of separate and equally fenced desire and need.
Get your ass back before midnight or it'll glow like a pumpkin
and scare off the devil, that old hater of righteous roan rumps.



Woman of the Stableboy

Had I died as I had wished
in the burden of my shamed
condition without him named
in the depths of my hot blood
my lie might not have led
stableboy to blanket me nor fed
the townsfolk full of dread.
Yesterday merely stupid hunger
made me accept his favor—
I asked him, take me to the river
but he took me into shelter
thinned and gaunt with fever
then I said, so you DO love me;
and I said, so I have loved you;
yes, I loved you from the start.
Jockey me to the finishline,
I will share in your glory.
           As a datepalm in the desert
           grows and flourishes this lie
           in the wasteland of my heart
Now along silly streets in windowpanes
strangers who see this nag too well pull
breedmares out of reach, blind their studs
as if even sideways glance contaminates
the race, makes them run less straight,
keeps them from winning wreathes of roses.
           But, they've once had this hay themselves—
           in buckboard summers grandmothers
           whinnied in the smell of clover and sires
           siring devoured grass wet with dew.
Ahead of me, the foaming mouth in the bit
of what I'd done and what I had become
awaits them all.
           The swaybacks bray—beware,
           here comes a filly without papers.
I pay with muscle, blood, and sinew
to make my life anew;
the racetrack's daily longer
but I feed upon the lie,
and I feed on oats of hate.



Dreams Portend

"City." That had been his mother's word.
Woke him at night with it; kept him awake
telling its intricate tales. Then, "ignore it,
think of something pleasant, and sleep now"
wrapped in her arms away from the embers
but feeling the fire aglow in her cold heart
he thought of it—"CITY"—and shared his bed
with her fears, joys, unassailable experience,
rising that night for water, drinking the cool
merely beginning to begin to quench thirst
returning to bed naked and watching over
the old dry bag of bone that still burned.

It was like gravity holding her down in the bed
with her arms trapped in the pillows of the bed
with her feet grasped in a beast's firm claws
while it ate at her where she had kept cityborn
memory—why had she shared with him, thought
the woman, if not that she wanted memory alive.

Afterward shower the cool water along her thighs
explained to her husband that it was more than heat
of the night that drove her to unexpected baptism.


John Horváth, Jr. recently published Golden Hits: 1970-2000 (Pudding House Press), and has also authored Reverend Terrebonne Walker: A Dozen Southern Fried Poems and Iliana Region Poems: Harboring the Enemy.
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