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A Horse Named Never


At the stables, each stall was labeled with a name.

Biscuit stood aloof—I faced always, invariably, his clockwork tail.

Crab knew the salt lick too well.

Trapezoid mastered stillness: a midnight mare, she was sternest and
tallest, her chest stretched against the edges of her stall.

I was not afraid of Never, the chestnut gelding, so rode his iron
haunches as far as Panther Gap.

Never and I lived in Virginia then.

We could neither flee nor be kept.

Seldom did I reach the little mountain without him, the easy crests
making valleys of indifferent grasses.

What was that low sound I heard, alone with Never?

A lone horse, a lodestar, a habit of fear.

We think of a horse less as the history of one man and his sorrows than
as the history of a whole evil time.

I fed him odd lettuce, abundant bitterness.

Who wore the bit and harness, who was the ready steed.

Or: I think there be six Nevers in the field.

He took the carrot, words by my own reckoning, an account of creeks
and oyster catchers.

I named my account "Notes on the State of Virginia."

It was bred for show and not to race.

Never, l cried, Never.

Were I more horse than rider, I would better understand the beast I am.

Our hoof-house rested at the foot of the mountain, on which rested
another house more brazen than statuary.

Let it be known: I first mistook gelding for gilding.

I am the fool that has faith in Never.

Somewhere, a gold door burdened with apology refuses all mint from
the yard.


Jennifer Chang

Some Say the Lark
Alice James Books


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