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Workhorse

Peter Mishler

When I was young they scored me
and buried their straw in me
and let whatever gold clot in me
invested in me and scared my old life
out of me in the way they said
it was meant. I played on the floors
of their waiting rooms by the doors
to my first physicians and when
the worst possible faces emerged
I answered all of their questions
as if I were calling into a canyon.
Surely this could not be the present
from which I would flee, the earth
collapsing to fill up a song in their heads.
But I would not chauffeur it for them
so they buckled my knees for me
while I flinched at the cold, scaly walls
of their offices. Their children basked
with their sunlit hands on their cleft
handlebars at the edge of the track.
I lay down in the ruts of their wheels.
They had me design my stable myself
and design it dutifully. They told me
that no one would clean my own pen
and I wouldn’t and wouldn’t forgive myself
not to dream of such strange animals running
to drink from a dish in a far-off clearing.