Featured Poem II • September 2014
Poor Old Horse
Here at the end of summer, even the sea is shedding its leaves, curled letters come ashore in bottles of float-flawed glass, a puddle of thick-furred silver dropped like a towel in the dunes’ rambling lee, girls with gulls’ breasts leaning from whitened rocks, their voices wind-thrown, their arms open wide as sails. Each ninth wave arches the white necks of drowned horses, thundering sailors to shore beneath their hooves. Take the coin from the hand of the last, his black coat the shale crunching sun-hot beneath your sandy feet: it will buy you passage anywhere the sea burns silver with dolphins’ backs. Take your skin from the shade of the beach plums, your heading from the sirens calling across the buoys. Leave me a message rolled in an antique map, its winds and nereids all my winter’s study until spring foam flowers back your face to me.
Sonya Taaffe’s short fiction and poetry can be found in the collections Postcards from the Province of Hyphens (Prime Books), Singing Innocence and Experience (Prime Books), and A Mayse-Bikhl (Papaveria Press), and in anthologies including Beyond Binary: Genderqueer and Sexually Fluid Speculative Fiction, The Moment of Change: An Anthology of Feminist Speculative Poetry, People of the Book: A Decade of Jewish Science Fiction & Fantasy, The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, The Alchemy of Stars: Rhysling Award Winners Showcase, and The Best of Not One of Us. She is currently senior poetry editor at Strange Horizons; she holds master’s degrees in classics from Brandeis and Yale and once named a Kuiper belt object. She lives in Somerville with her husband and their two cats.
She had this to say about the writing of “Poor Old Horse”: “On the very last day of August, at the end of a month of packing, Selkie D’Isa and I were talking about the Mari Lwyd and the sea. The chantey ‘Poor Old Horse’ got stuck in my head. The poem is the result. It was the last thing I wrote at my first apartment in Somerville.”
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