North Carolina's Famous Wild Horses Emerge from Hurricane Florence Unscathed

Paige Quiñones

I go to the police & my mother tells me
her boyfriend in the ’70s plied her with Valium.
Some evenings are so shot through with disbelief
they’re unrecognizable.

Storms in the Gulf & Atlantic flex their fingers
against our throats.

I am powerless. Water leaks from the ceiling
into trash cans like breath into a reed.
A man asks whether I will feel relief when I am murdered.

          I can picture it:
          the room a loaded chamber,
          the room thick with fresh-turned dirt,
          the room a used cage,
          I am undoubtedly naked.

Levis thought of the world as velvet skin moving
over a single skeletal horse. I’m not sure
he’s incorrect.

It happens sometimes, that horses’ tangled manes
are the fabric of a dream.

Animals know catastrophe will happen before we do.
My mother drives with an unlocked passenger door,
the handle broken. She has dinner with a man
she trusts.

On the beach, horses retreat. A drive for high ground
presses in the gut, the rendezvous in the wild hills more necessary
than breeding.

What I would give to taste the bitter blood of her medicated glass of wine.

In Louisville, the ashes of a Thoroughbred lie
inside a publicly displayed tomb. I wish it were his entire body
& not the cremation, black tail still
tethered to bone.

A man beats my mother over the head & face & tells her
to drive & drive & drive but she never knows the destination.

My childhood is punctuated by the whispered recitation
of passwords.

Always ask for the code.
Always double check your locks.
That man might be, is watching you.

I wonder whether it would be better for fires to come this far south.

In yearbooks, my mother has flatironed hair parted down the middle.
Brunette, a living Bundy girl. I cannot look at those photographs
without seeing a man’s shoe bruising her face
like a judgment.

Friends tell me to get out of this apartment, that he might
be monitoring me. I say footfalls outside my window
sound like the rapture.

My police report comes to nothing &
my mother believes she was drugged & merely undressed
by a man in good faith thirty years ago because she woke
in an unmarked body.

The horses are famous. They predicted it all.