WILD, WILD HORSES
I remember Jim’s Rack ‘n Cue, in those pockets of time between sleep and awake; those times my mother let me out of the house long enough to dart out, into the silver smoke clouds gilding the ceiling.
The way the bottles on the dusty bar gleamed spectral blue under the fluorescent lamp, and of course, Scotty Southcomb. His flannel hung undulant, unbuttoned. Bowing like a reed over the meadow of the pool table.
The resolute click of the white cue ball against maroon, then mauve, then the green. The thump of the each one into the pocket. His eyes black as bonfires put to ash reignited when Stretch, Cookie, or Lucky had words to say
that weren’t resourceful. Caused him to drag the man who crossed him into the parking lot and shove a fistful of gravel in his mouth. Take him down in a death roll of fists and ripped shirts. I remember him pulling into my impossibly long driveway, saying my life was perfect, as light
flooded the front door. My mother’s bathrobed outline eclipsed it. Hands on hips. She’d drink, smoke, and lecture, but still believed in college degrees, though not in me. But someday I’d leave, destined for a future she shone
in my eyes like a policemen’s flashlight each night she clicked on the porch lights. Scotty, wasn’t in school anymore. His parents I never saw, just heard when his mother’s voice through the wafer-thin ceilings for us
to keep it down in the basement. He’d reply, “It’s always somethin’ ain’t it?” the air so thick with tension you could lick a dollop off your finger, his stepfather also invisible, but for one day as Scotty got into my car, his Led Zeppelin shirt torn to ribbons on his back.
I wanted to tell him it isn’t a sin to fall, but to fall from no great height, those nights and mornings he stayed up, wild as those horses in the song he played while shooting pool, driving aimlessly with the boys, who couldn’t be dragged
away from the night or morning. Drinking beer until the gray dawn. All of it the mark of freedom, I would have traded my life to feel. I didn’t want to be dragged away from him by my mother, but I wasn’t wild, and so I was.
But one day on the phone, his mother in a flat tone said Scotty had gone away, that he wasn’t well, that he wasn’t making sense, that he’s been telling her the devil lives in her eyes, and he was gone. I couldn’t believe the wild horses
that sent him into this life could have dragged him out, flailing so hard he left a dust-angel in the sand. I had a dream of six horses, tawny, dark, russet and white, paraded onto ice by proper jockeys. Suddenly the shatter, and the horses going down, and the jockeys
falling also, and how I wanted them to be pulled out. Their hooves flailed, their teeth pulled back to show the pink, and their lean muscled necks thrashed and strained, as they slid further into the ice. I woke, knowing I wouldn’t hear him again
until years later, from the free mental health clinic payphone. I was staring out the window next to me, at the brick apartment. There was a slant of sun in the courtyard below—No matter how wild I had become then, an early
adult, we were looking at the same thing. I pictured him: he’s in shelters. Sitting at a long table of men. The salt grit of their jaws. Their eyes, deserts from not crying. And I have not seen him go down kicking. And I have not seen him descend into ice, but rising
with icicles curled into his hair. Nights I walk the ocean. Watch horses emerge from the dark surf. I want to touch them, but can’t. Because there is no saving what emerges at night, and just
because I can’t see him doesn’t mean he’s not there. Doesn’t mean he isn’t rising atop one. Riding out of himself into the brief bruise of day,as if to say, I’ve beaten you.
Published in The Boxcar Poetry Review September 2009 Issue.