Loretta Collins Klobah

Hard Keeper

Hard Keeper

A gruff nickering and lip-flap
comes from the horse standing
at my back gate again, biting the railing
of chainlink that hems in
the tamarind on my patio from him.
I like that rare horse sound
when I’m in bed.

During the day, he is tied to a white tree trunk
with no sun canopy in the open field behind my gate.
Though it’s not ours, the land is a commons
for my neighbors, a pasture skirted by tulip trees.
In the field, Armando, my neighbor, shoots an air rifle
and lets his pitbull Pepé run after rats.

Although he pulls no millstone, the stallion walks
slow circles around the tree, a swath where grasses
have been eaten down to baked clay.
His water bucket lies on its side.
In my mind, I have bought a tarp
and tied it from the treetop to my fence
to shade him. In my mind, I have filled
a trough with barley, corn, oats, and beet pulp
or pulled green-topped carrots from pockets
to feed him through the patio fence,
this down-at-heel, derelict horse
with many grey ticks embedded
in his forehead, neck and breast,
rows of fat ticks cobcorning his skin.

Though his eyes are deep and his face
and soft nose as attractive as that of any horse,
he is a bare scaffold of a horse. His back
vertebrae and eighteen ribs are visible—
The shoulder scapular and hip bones
poke up, where skin covering them is thin
and hair-scraped and scrabby—
tatty chestnut pelt of a taxidermied horse.
The hip bones are so shrink-wrapped
by his hide that I look up horse anatomy
to name these bones the wings of ilium.

Sometimes he drags the rope behind him,
let loose to forage weeds beyond his circle.
Broken down in the pasterns, fetlock-hurt, joints
disjointed, he hobbles on front hooves
that don’t stand squarely on the ground
but angle up.
                      Sometimes, the owner drives
our street in his yellow pick-up truck,
rattling its rack, horse ropes and butt chains.
He fights with my neighbor about the boarding
of the horse. Men yell, “es mi derecho.”

Sometimes at twilight, when I come home,
the horse is tethered to a teeter-totter
in the children’s playground across the street.
He stays there all night, nibbling short grass.
When he walks, unminded, in the street,
I call to him from my high window; he whinnies.
In my mind, I have seen him put down.
But, he is so full of life!
In my mind, I have faced the anger
of the bellowing men and rescued him.

I rescued a sato once, a feral dog
fierce, with her five pups. I gathered
money donations and called those
women volunteers who rescue satos to pull her
out of her cave under my workplace.
I visited two sanctuaries, hundreds of shrieking
and barking and yowling dogs penned
in a labyrinth of plastic hand-carry kennels
and wire cages stacked four or five high,
row upon precariously-stacked row
of small, bare, hosed-out cages
filling a large yard, in full Caribbean sun,
with just a two standing fans for hundreds of dogs.
I sent that stray dog to that place that only
I saw, her puppies shipped to no-kill shelters in the US.
I was the only one who saw the conditions
of that place. I am in dog-hell, I said to myself,
as they showed me around the rows of racked cages.
The sound of the dogs was misery.
I couldn’t wait to get out of there.

Last night, the moon sat in the sky
like a bowl. I had to look up moon phases
to name it an upward-opening crescent moon.
It was like a glass calabash of glowing milk.
I thought of the Buddhist begging bowl.
It was Sunday night when neighbors put
their trash out for Monday collectors.

At midnight, the horse was dipping his head
into each blue barrel that neighbors
had set out. He gobbled white plastic bags,
He pulled our rotten bones out of each can.
When I saw him, he had already fed
from all the trash bins along our street.
I watched from my upstairs window
how he used his teeth to lift out each item.
He filled two storm drains and the gutters
with our detritus. The neighbor with children
came out, fending him off with a broom.
I walked down my stairs and into the street.
I called to him, but he walked down the hill
in that uneven gait he has. I didn’t hear his horsey
blabbering all night. Today he is not tied to the tree.
In my mind, I see how he opened Styrofoam boxes
and licked food traces. There are many
horses living in this city. La gente do not leave
them behind in the countryside.
I name this horse Rocinante,
those arguing men rocín. He is not mine
to name. Rocinante!
I am broken-down, too.
A woman and a horse
sharing this space on earth, for a time.