When the ponies are let out at dusk, they pound across their pasture,
pitching and bucking like the brutes their genes must dream they still are.
With their shaggy, winter-coarse coats, they seem stubbier than ever,
more diminutive, toylike, but then they begin their aggression rituals,
ears flattened, stained brown teeth bared, hindquarters humped,
and they're savage again, cruel, all but carnivorous if they could be.
Their shoes have been pulled off for the season, their halters are rope,
so they move without sound, as though on tiptoe, through the rising mist.
They drift apart now, halfheartedly nosing the stiff, sapless remnants
of field hay; sometimes one will lift and gaze back toward the barn.
A tiny stallion lies down, rolling onto his back first, then all the way flat.
A snort—rich, explosive; an answering sigh; silence again, shadows, dark.
The name of the horse of my friend's friend,
a farmer's son whose place we'd pass
when we rode out that way I remember,
not his name, just his mare's, Peggy,
a gleaming, well-built gray; surprising,
considering her one-stall plank shed.
I even recall where they lived,
Half-Acre Road—it sounds like Frost,
and looked it: unpaved, silos and barns.
I went back not long ago;
it's built up, with rows on both sides
of bloated tract mansions.
One lot was still empty,
so I stopped and went through and found
that behind the wall of garages and hydrants
the woods had stayed somehow intact,
and wild, wilder; the paths overgrown,
the derelict pond a sink of weeds.
We'd gallop by there, up a hill,
our horses' flanks foaming with sweat;
then we'd skirt Peggy's fields
and cross to more woods, then a meadow,
the scent of which once, mown hay,
was so sweet I taste it still.
But now, the false-mullioned windows,
the developer's scrawny maples, the lawns—
I didn't know what to do with it all;
it just ached, like forgetting someone
you love is dead, and wanting to call them,
and then you remember, and they're dead again.