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POETRY Mutual Ignorance I train her to distinguish walk, trot, and now canter. I trust her in a round-pen. She runs on a fifteen-foot lead; a one-horse carousel—the ring to my Saturn. I shorten the rope in my left hand and, with the loose rope in my right, I threaten her. I am drawn closer, out of my center into a small circle behind her. When she kicks I see it, in time to consider, but not avoid. Her hoof goes straight to my stomach, picks me up, and sets me down on useless feet. We both stop. Face each other. She is breathing heavy, head high, eyes white, waiting for what comes next. On my knees I hold the rope, watch her as the sweat in my shirt turns red. I know my breath will return, but I also know there is a chance it won’t.

Fear of Lightning The Wish To Be an Indian I am running, each foot pats the dust of tracks left by logging trucks that barely passed these ridge-tops and dragged the trees to mills, in tractor gears. In this place, trees, older than Louisiana, die of their own weight and feed a jungle of deer trails into bottoms of hardwood and up where water courses into sandy streams that slide past diamond-backs and copperheads who curl in the shade and watch wild azaleas stretch to kiss the surface occasionally. Here the treads of log skidders have churned the earth and pulled with chains, forty-foot sections of saw logs and pulpwood to load on trucks. They are gone now and the rain has washed their dust. I walk the woods in search of places where the soil is plowed and flakes of rock lie clean in memory of someone who sat for hours, thousands of years ago, and turned a stone into a knife. It is late summer and hot. I can hear the storm: I count the seconds between the lightning and the thunder as the miles close: 25 seconds, five miles and the thunder still rolls and shakes me. The sky dims. Clouds darken to green and yellow bruises that swirl around me. 20 seconds, 4 miles. My car. four miles away, opposite the storm, is at the end of what dirt road is left. I am barefoot, dressed only in swimming trunks to keep red-bugs from filling my clothes. I carry an eight-foot pole, dried cherry with its bark skinned, a snake-stick that is light and strong and can go into bushes before my legs. I balance the stick beside me and lope the ridge-line. 15 seconds, 3 miles and I can hear the crack split clouds as it roars past me. I keep my pace, but fear, of being caught on high ground when the lightning reaches me, lengthens my step. 10 seconds, two miles. I concentrate on my breath and the path, fast ahead of me: it’s like a dream where I race only half as fast as what follows. I see the flash behind me. 5 seconds, 1 mile. It rips the air and the hair on my body stands; I can smell the sky burn and the rain comes and it feels good and it pushes me, faster, more afraid than I can hold. My breath settles into some instinct and my steps become pats again. Softer, and light, on the balls of my feet, I come round, into a clearing, where a deer stands beside two yearlings. They startle, freeze, then scatter. The doe and one yearling cut right in front and disappear as the road turns behind them. The other one, cut off and confused, runs beside me at my left, too afraid to stop or turn back, determined to get ahead of me and cross, and we run, like this, side by side, with nothing but a barbed-wire fence between us, broken and rusted, and I run as fast as I’ve ever run; elated with our tangled fear. The rain consumes and sound and light combine, and he bounds sideways and crosses and I gain a step, and my spear rises on its own, and I stop the thrust, just before, it severs our rushing heart.

R.L. Sibley 18 | fluent

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