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Ian Orti (2017)

I wrote you a story and here’s how it went. There was you but it wasn’t you, it was some kind of other you, and I was your father and we were refugees on a boat and along the way we’d lost our possessions so it was just you and me and this horse- this plastic horse – a toy we’d picked up somewhere along the way and it was the last and only thing we’d saved and on that cold raft you clung to it. It was a perfect horse which never tired or shivered once and never took its firm stare from what lay ahead of it and you clung to it – did I mention that? – well you did, as I’ve clung to this vision of you, with your face pressed against mine as I shielded you from the water that splashed into that dinghy as it hit the waves as we puttered along to the shores. I can still smell the salt in your hair as I prayed to God that this flimsy piece of rubber would make it without capsizing like the one that took the others. The only thing between us was that horse, I felt its rigid plastic body between us, staring straight ahead, its hair knotted perfectly by its master – you!-  fitted perfectly with its saddle by its master – you! – in a saddle fit for one person alone on this earth – you! you! you! – and you held it in your arms as I pulled your sleeves over your hands and blew into the arms to heat your cold fingers until we made it to shore and when we entered the shallow waters, that horse stared into my eyes and I knew I had to jump in those frigid waters, slipping on the rocks and scraping the ankles I could barely feel to pull that rubber mess the final meters to shore and you were the first one I grabbed off that boat before we were wrapped in a silver blanket.

That horse.

There were villains in the story I wrote you because every story has one, or some, otherwise what’s the point, and they were kids in the camp, bigger kids, and a kid who took your horse away from you and as sad as I thought I’d ever seen you I never saw anything like the sadness on your face when you came to tell me the kid, the bigger kid with the brothers or the sisters, had taken your horse and though there was nothing in this world I could control, I would control where that horse went. So I marched up to those children and demanded back your horse, and being villains, and a family of villains they had a father who refused to let me take that horse back to you because, as he said, it was his little daughter’s horse now. And I pleaded and reasoned with him but it was no use and that’s when the horse stared straight at me again, dead in the eyes in a way that said, don’t let them take your daughter’s horse from her – do what the regal horse with the perfect knots and saddle for one, one on earth, would do – and I snatched it away from the man’s daughter and here’s where the story got away from me my love, here’s where the story started to spiral, and I lost the story and I lost the horse because it was here where the father-villain pulled that knife from his pocket and his horrible sons surrounded us and he put that knife deep into my body, into my belly so many times and then into my heart- into my heart!- can you believe it! Oh my love – it was here I lost the story and the horse and I haven’t held you in my arms since that cold and terrible day and you haven’t held the horse since the day they stole it from you and now look at you my love, all grown up in that European city that was supposed to be our stable.

I should be happy.

You picked up the language. You did okay in school. And sure you had friends, a best friend here or there, kids your age with skateboards who taught you how to roll cigarettes and that school wasn’t everything, but I know there were those older kids who said they were your friends but who laced your drinks at graduation. You aged okay all things considered, you did okay my love. You found good music and slivers of happiness along the way. You became a runner like your papa and a better one – so much better! – My God how I would love to run with you right now! – side by side, shoulder to shoulder past cottages and windmills along the seaside and through villages and in the last one hundred meters we would race and  I wouldn’t even have to let you win because you are just plain faster, just plain better.  Just plain stronger.

Just like that horse.

But you don’t run anymore and the horse is gone, and I know that your memory of me is fading and almost gone and I know that to see me you have to close your eyes tightly and even then I am hard to hold on to and am gone again when you open your eyes. But I can do one thing my love.  I can tell you I found something out here in the greatness where you can’t see me but I can see you sitting on the edge of that pier with your feet hanging high above the cold sea and where you are still the engine, the volcano, the exploding supernova of my entire being.

Do you hear it?

Listen, my love.

That’s no storm but there’ll be destruction beyond your most wonderful dreams. Just turn around my love and I promise your eyes will not deceive you. Hear the long shards hit the sidewalk from such heights. Do you hear the concrete crumble? You’d swear that was the thunder but it’s just her breath passing through her nostrils!

Turn around my love!

Have you ever seen anything so marvelous?

How her ankles topple those buildings like they’re made of sand! Eyes the size of libraries! Don’t be afraid! Stand and brush the cold pebbles from your pants and just look! Did you see that? She could swat the moon with those two forelegs in the air. It’s in the bones my love. It’s in the horse’s bones and it’s what separates her from you. Honeycombed trabecular bones with those tiny supportive struts remodelled over time for the strength they need and not weakened like yours or mine by the sorrow that weighs us down. What strength! See through ash from the trampled television station how collateral ligaments elongate beneath the hide and what glorious flexion there is in the joints as her feet cut through the geodesic domes as though they were made of sugar, propelling and braking with hard hooves on group homes and detention centres. Oh she’s a beauty! What power from the hindquarters flowing uninterrupted over supple longissimus dorsi as she bucks your old schools to dust, what gorgeous mass of tendons running from the breastbone to the pelvic girdle as hooves come crushing down on the football stadium.



My God a whole overpass under just one hoof! And have you ever seen hair so perfectly knotted? Have you ever seen such elegance? Look how she cuts and steps. Piaffe! Piaffe! She’s on to something, you know. There’s a family in a house and they’re not going to make it my love. I wish I could tell you this story would not be so bloody but we’re grown-ups now and we both know this is how the world goes and I may have found your horse but I never said I could control her – there are no reigns in the universe for her, my love – and I wish I could tell you this family of villainous horse thieves in this house will be fine but they won’t. Piaffe!  Did you ever forgive them? Piaffe!  I never did! Piaffe!  I never did! My God, on two legs again and have you ever seen two legs come upon on a house like that before? Have you ever felt the earth shake like this before? Their house is pulp my love, just pulp and splinters and dust and blood dripping from her horseshoes wide as trains.

Oh, the carnage, my love, the carnage! How she holds the tanks between her teeth and licks the blood from her gums after turning steel to cud, and when they bring out their big guns my love she’ll offer them her chest, rising up on hind legs until they open up her flesh. But it’s all part of her plan my love – all part of her plan! When the rockets hit her ribcage her insides will pour straight from her until the streets are filled with bodies my love and storeys rise with blood. And the few that live to tell the tale, the few spared on the rooftops, will pledge to rewrite scriptures with you there as her master. The horse, they’ll write, your mighty mare, made her way back to her master, bathing first out fifty knots lowering her head into the ocean. And the whales gave up intestines via their bellies to the sharks, and eels sutured your horse’s wounds and sealed them with them with the krill. Step by step to get to you she’ll walk, tendons firing in her joints, til the ocean rises one more time and thrusts the land with tide.

My God, what horse, they’ll say.





I tried my love, I tried to rein her in and all her story, but she snapped the reins and tore my palms and reigned all through the story, now the city’s emptied out my love, she razed it in your honour, expelled it from its history and expunged it of its horrors.

Now the only place left for her is the ankles of her master.

Kick off your sneakers, my love, end the sloshing in your socks. Feel the ocean move between your toes as she takes her final bow. Oh those black eyes like libraries that say it’s been so long and we’ve both missed you so so much.  Oh, how she takes majestic knee before you. Oh, how she rises from the sea beneath your feet and her breath engulfs and warms you like tropical air. Climb into her silken knots of hair, my love, and sleep in there forever.



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