I was on my way to pick up vegetables
which are delivered each week
as though by a miracle
from a local farm to my favorite bar
when I passed a small herd of horses—
if six or seven makes a herd.
They were hitched to the side of a trailer
pulled up along the sidewalk.
The block was closed,
there were policemen at the corners
and someone shoveling manure.
The horses couldn't have cared less.
Each stood with its head down,
weight distributed among three legs,
the fourth cocked at the fetlock,
making them look a little sassy.
They were acting horses
brought in for a television miniseries
about a Harlem hospital
at the turn of the century.
It was being filmed in Greenpoint,
which is also known as Little Poland.
The miniseries would deal
in a provocative way with race,
I was told by the man shoveling manure.
It's hard to say anything meaningful
about race, but I'm not saying
the attempt shouldn't be made.
Two horses were led away
and hitched to a buggy,
then directed to trot up and down
the dirt-covered street.
After they halted and the driver hopped down,
the horse on the left
strained against his harness
and craned his neck
so he could gnash his large teeth
in his partner's face.
This was a more honest expression
of horse, I suppose,
than the beautiful unison achieved
while the camera rolled.
Michelle Y. Burke is the author of the chapbook Horse Loquela
. Recent poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Poetry
, The Laurel Review
, and The Boiler
. She is a recipient of two Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Prizes and fellowships from the MacDowell Colony and the Vermont Studio Center. She lives in Brooklyn.
more by Michelle Y. Burke:
One Thousand Gray Days