Horses (Franz Marc)
These creatures with breathing blue
necks. Arch and bristle. Forelock and star.
They come rushing over the horizon
like clouds, and our hearts wilt
to see them. For there is no saddle
so splendid it could coax them to hold
us. They open their mouths for no
bit. Oh god, the grace of blue
horses. They are always passing
away into the endless. They are gone,
taking the blue river stones of their shoulders,
the rain-points of their legs, their windy
tails and their manes stiff as the ruff
of a war helmet. Yet these are creatures
who have never suffered on the battlefield.
No, they know nothing of that. So
they have gone. But here come their red
cousins, blazing and gorgeous, bucking
over the sky. They too are innocent
and their ears are never the soft ears
of the defeated one who drops his lips
to the ruined earth, to the ruined shoulder
of the painter who will not get up again.
Die Seele/the soul
like an owl or a sea lion,
but white as moonlight:
a lynx with feathered feet,
a little snow-colored kit,
bounding. Hullo, you silence.
Hullo you secret joy.
Take flight into the blackest
forest, where the wild boar
still roots with a coral-pink
snout. Let him find you
his one prize, bloom of earth,
a truffle: that ruffled treat,
like an ugly rose in the hand,
the friendly earth’s delicious
gift. I don’t care what they say,
how many drawings they do
of you in a dead baby’s
nightgown: I know you love
the things of this world,
and will miss them,
when you go.
(The Bronx, 195-)
Three rooms: a dark section of hive.
A father with a shepherd’s crook of flame.
A mother like a flame. A grandmother,
a throne for you to sit in. Her missing fingers,
gulped by a factory. Blood and screaming?
A humming. A keyhole, spices in the darkness.
How old were you when you saw your first star?
A real one, a little white stab of light,
not jig-cut balsa painted gold and straddling
the roof of the crèche, donkeys and cows nudging
closer to the manger with their graphite
snouts. How old when you saw a cow?
You had fire bells in the night, a neighbor
breathing in an iron lung, your little black vest
with its hundred ribbons for marching
in the parade, a doll stumbling the room
on long nude legs. You had a mouth full of ash.
Dark infanta, cramped and scowling, escaping
in your newspaper boat night after night
down a ticking creek of clear seconds.
The nuns sailed overhead in their dark tents,
their shoes hanging out like tongues
or the clappers of bells. You always knew
they were witches. You always knew
there was more, more than the Indians
in their soundless museum canoe,
more than roller skate keys and tin can stoves,
more than your cousin with a scalpful of gold,
curls sprung like pig’s tails. You were always
leaving it, the apartment, half-lit comb of honey:
it grew smaller and smaller in your chest,
a saint’s medal, a set model, compass
of onyx, the face of an ikon dark under soot.
(for my mother)
Art by Daniel Toby Gonzalez
Katherine Hollander is a poet and historian. Born in Boston, she was educated at Marlboro College and Boston University, where she earned an MA in poetry and a PhD in history. Her poems, criticism, and scholarly work have appeared in Literary Imagination, Slate, Tupelo Quarterly, The Brecht Yearbook, New German Critique, and elsewhere. She has taught European history at Simmons College, the University of Hartford, and Colby College, creative writing at Boston University, and serves as a Reader for Sugar House Review. Alongside writing poems, she is at work on a historical monograph about a community of German-speaking intellectuals in exile, and translating the childhood memoirs of Margarete Steffin.