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.