Project Description

How to Kill an Old Horse

After years hunkered in a tent
in the woods with his brother and father,

because his father had lit the house
on fire at least twice in a panic,

and after his mother was trucked North
to the Concord State Hospital,

where she would die,
and after he led a roan mare

into a barn with a tricky floor
and the horse was skewered,

not unlike a squirrel on a spit,
and the horse had to be shot

because it wouldn’t die
quickly enough, and after

years of squirrelling food away
in pockets and shaking my father

awake in the middle of the night
to say, we have to get out of here,

and moving across state lines in the dark,
and after my grandmother came home

from the OR in her scrubs
and he put his finger in her face

for the last time, and after pushing
the lawnmower over my mother’s rosebushes,

my grandfather sent me a friend request,
to which I didn’t respond, and died.

I flipped through his books,
every line on every page underlined

and every margin packed with notes
about the impossibility of the existence

of any sort of god, pages which reeked
of cigarettes years after his death.

I tilted the picture frames on his walls
in his apartment to check for ghost spots

as I had tilted them as a child.
I raked clumps of praying mantis

with my hands in the grass,
and I heard him throwing a door open

and jousting at me with his cane,
my brother saying don’t talk to her like that,

my grandfather saying, go to hell,
you miserable kids. Go straight to hell.

Clara Strong

Clara Strong is a student of poetry at the Bennington Writing Seminars. She writes from the cornfields of Southern Indiana, where she is a social worker at a local health clinic and lives with her husband and child (forthcoming). There, she helps host Slant, a monthly poetry reading. She has work forthcoming in Peauxdunque Review.