Letters to a Dead Racehorse #6, #8https://i2.wp.com/barrenmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/DSC_7892-bw-1.jpg?fit=2500%2C1406&ssl=125001406Jill MceldowneyJill Mceldowneyhttps://i1.wp.com/barrenmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/authorphoto-e1539636607446.jpg?fit=96%2C96&ssl=1
Can you tell me how much longer
I get to be alive
and in love? Maybe a person only gets a choice
between the two and maybe it is too late
to live after everything I have seen and done.
I have placed myself in peril.
I have done nothing to protect myself.
I have washed the towel I held to my mouth
three times to get the blood out.
Or maybe the choice was never mine,
was never something I could control. You know that feeling—
how racehorses leave their lives to luck, to spectators betting
on who gets to survive, betting on
“Everything happens for a reason.”
When they say that, a part of me believes they mean
I deserve to pay
the full price for love which is the horse price, the body price:
two grand in dental work,
how my mouth will never be the same.
I will never again hold ice
against my teeth without pain.
Alydar, it is just us talking now—are you listening?
I know a quiet
always separates each act of violence—
there will be a breath taken
between the night in his car
where I spit a silver shard of molar into my palm
and the next time he takes his anger out.
I want to know how much longer
this calm can last, if it can—if it doesn’t
can the sky hold
another woman like me?
And Alydar if you are listening,
could you give me a sign?
Could you answer—
Alydar, why is this happening to me?
Just say the word so I can understand
because right now I don’t
I don’t understand.
I am so used to making choices that will keep me alive—
but if love is something that can’t be outrun,
if there is a reason for everything,
if there is a reason he cracked my skull against a car window,
if there are consequences to suffer and there is nothing to be done but
then I should
know that better than anyone.
You sleep so far—
how can you hear me?
I can say the truth or I can say my arm was never broken,
I am alive,
I have to live
knowing I am a bad place:
the lime dust powdered floor of
your empty stall—
the sugar the ghost horse eats.
What will happen
now that I have said my life out loud?
I deserve a better ending—
I deserve myself
filling with light.
The only way to survive is to misremember—
promise me a different winter where I will never be wound
so tightly to old wounds. I could live gently,
I could welcome
your side of sky. Alydar, promise me
I still have a chance for that next life
of roses climbing the trellis,
where nothing is made of ice, where everything
has the ability to fly.
Jill Mceldowney is the author of Airs Above Ground (Finishing Line Press). She is a founder and editor of Madhouse Press. Her previously published work has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Vinyl, Muzzle, Fugue, the Sonora Review and other notable publications.