1996: Green Mountain Road

all that lies between

misadventure and disaster

is this winding road

the girl is in shock

right thigh tied shut

chattering, with her mom

holding her in the back seat

i drive, my stickshift purring

slalom through penticton indian reserve

golden grass, piney hills

houses tucked and slumbering

beneath bright sun of july

this is before cell phones

there is no ambulance up in the hills

and when she slips, hit rocks not water

her friends run down to camp

ahead of chad, walking her out on his back

when we meet them, we turn around

it’s single file on shale and scree

chad is using animal voice

those tones that slide to the limbic

hypnotising truth, i have you, trust me

i speak this, too, bringing the troupe

back to camp. now tires thrum

on hot pavement, and she fights

her shock by chatting about her role

in the four pm show coming up.


i try not to think of monty python’s

knight and his flesh wound

breathe limbic, broadcast calm.


out from the hills, the pavement spills

a smooth river now

when, around a bend, they appear

a throng of the band’s horses

free-pastured, they’ve taken the road

and form up around us, stand and swish their tails

shining flanks round to the sun.


my horn will not move them

and i dare not stop, so i drive

slowly, gaze limbic, my hand

banging low drum on the car door

move on, move on, but not stampede

nothing to send pulses racing.


look, says mother sandra

how beautiful they are. a broodmare

gives delicate fluting benediction,

turns a dainty heel, leads the flow away

and we clear the herd

glide swiftly now, my hand still a drum

clear arc to the hospital.


they give her thirty seven stitches

deep, then thirty seven on top

while sandra and i smoke and pace.


this is what’s holy: sandra

has only the clean worry

for the physical wound, she knows

her daughter is otherwise sound

and the high lake, with its stony walls

holds clean dangers

they were safe enough with chad

she is not dismayed by the scar

to come, its story will be a good one.


after surgery, that girl is finally

urging me, hurry now. we have to make the show.


the troupe dance with their eyes on her.

when they form ranks

for their curtain call, they pull her up

flow and form around her, breath and blood entrained

tossing their manes, shining in bright july sun.

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