Horses shift in the stalls. Flanks twitch but don’t kick.
Dust churns up and falls to rest on apple cores. I move
as though I know what will happen like I control
their muscle. They can smell it on you, someone said.
I feed them, sling their shit, the urine-swamped sawdust
that lines the stall. In four walls, there are two bodies,
vinegar, and spooks of flies.
I am of use. I’ve wanted
it for years: strength and good work. I started
throwing up when I was twenty-one. I thought a whip-thin
girl could be reined in. At the doctor’s office, they searched
for my pulse. It was slow in coming—a minute held fifty-four.
The same as a horse. Strength does this. So does sickness.
Now I test my heart, listen for breaks in the murmurs.
I’m pretty sure I’ve done some damage after eight years.
I think of it like the minutes after--torn throat, the blood vessels
broke around my eyes, the taps running to hide the sound.
One Saturday my father comes up to visit and says,
a Reynolds keeps her food down. He took a day
off from work to drive up, tell me that. When I read
Animal Farm my dad stood in as Boxer, just work harder.
His heart across the table, reduced to glue, a liquid thing
adhering us. I can’t say I’m done. Dad, what work is worth it?
I can’t reverse the slowing of my heart or the holes I made
like stall walls kicked in. I keep the horses fed. I rest my head
against their chests to listen for a deep steady beat but
all I hear is churning gut and an ache against the harnesses.
About the Author: Meg Reynolds is an artist and poet living in Burlington, VT. She holds her BA in English and Arts and Visual Culture from Bates College and her MFA in poetry from Stonecoast at the University of Southern Maine. Her work has been published in Pine Street Poets and Pomeroy Street Poets Anthologies through Honeybee Press, as well as Prelude Journal, Wildage Press, Prime Number Magazine, and the anthology Monster Verse: Poems Human and Inhuman. She is the co-director of writinginsideVT, an organization that offers supportive writing instruction at the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility in Burlington, VT.