Marsha de la O

Horses Resting, 1909

For Enid Osborn

The horses gather beneath the oak, maybe curious
about the wagon and the man, or his horse. They sense
still-tender green shoots in the mottled shade

But don’t stretch their long necks down, now that quiet
has taken them, held in each other’s presence,
their bodies close in shadow.

Sunlight collects in pools on the open road, yet in shade
falls like bits of mosaic glass, the smell of heat and dust
and light-seared grass, scent of the world wanting its water
on this parched earth.

They look to be bays in the photo, though the far one,
a chestnut, has turned to nuzzle the flank of the gray
gelding in harness between the cart shafts. The gray
gently rolls a snaffle bit in his mouth.

The shared being of herd animals ripens into quietude
that even the driver leaning against the tree can feel—
horses drowsing together, as if drowsing were wisdom
or fullness, and he wonders

How it is that being among beasts of burden could feel like
sharing company with languid angels. And thinks it’s strange
that such closeness is also spacious, and how their quiet involves
the silence of the oak and its gracious shadow, as though

Peace were part of the water table at the roots of the tree.

After the Edson Smith Photo Collection Hope Ranch – Horses

Marsha de la O‘s latest book, Every Ravening Thing, (Pitt Poetry Series) came out in 2019. Her previous book, Antidote for Night, won the 2015 Isabella Gardner Award (BOA Editions).  Her first book, Black Hope, won the New Issues Press Poetry Prize. She’s recently published poems in The New Yorker, the Kenyon Review, and others. She is most proud of her work building connections in the poetry community in the Central Coast region of California. Also by this poet: “The Boy Who Went Looking