Poetry Month #14: More Air Than Is Good For Him by Heidi Vanderbilt

More Air Than Is Good For Him

Hail slaps me conscious from a dream
of sex with an old cowhand,
nestled in a chair, my back
to his front, his hands happy as toddlers
on the slide of my belly while

his wife and my husband
sit opposite us, joke, eat pasta, sip wine politely
including us in their conversation about tractors
and post hole diggers while his penis taps
the knobs of my spine and he whispers, Oh dear,
this will be hard,

pitches me into jeans, slicker, unlaced boots.
I skitter down the drenched hill to the corrals to find
the new boarder horse, Saadi, old and bony as a fish, trapped
in an uncovered pen.

I grab the cribbing strap
buckled tight around his throat
that stops him from gulping air, too much air,
exuberant sucking swallows of air, more air than he needs,
more air than is good for him, a vice
born of boredom,

and drag him toward shelter.
Old man, come. Sullen beside me, heavier
in his anger than a draft horse twice his size,
he plods to his stall, turns his rigid shivering rump
to me to show that I have ruined
his night, taken him

from the naked lightning,
the pricking rain, the warm mares in the corral next to his
with their furred bellies, smooth full cheeks, teasing nips
and led him to a tin-roofed shed and covered him
in a fleece sheet.

What is it about horse love?
The old mares never stop
wanting. Even ancient Dorita
winked when she saw him,
squealed, flipped her tail
over her back.

And Saadi, ribby and gelded,
patches of dark brown hair rubbed off his neck and shoulders,
whinnied across the wire gate, pawed
at the rails, breathed her ripe mare smell,
raised his chin and reared his lip to say,
You are delicious. You are

enchanting, lovelier than this air
I try to drown in. I would straddle
your flanks, press my chest to your back,
and with these teeth so worn no one can even guess my age
I would hold your arching neck, your stubbled mane,
your withers.

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