In his dream the boy heard ting-ting—
like chains sinking past
in lake water: it was the bell
he‘d tied to the tail of the horse.
He woke & ran to the field.
Earth turned slow in the dark.
Look, a horse head on grass
like a broken jack-o‘-lantern.
No body. The boy lay beside it,
hand on the honeybrown nose.
He did not cry. A voice
in the house was repeating
his name. He lifted the head
by its mane. He staggered.
It was heavier than a full pail
of water. He waded the river.
Its neck bones tore his shoulder.
In the forest, he hoisted it
onto a low branch. It stared
down, one ear up, eyes leaking
white puss. He tried to close
its eyes but could not. The dark
made sounds he misunderstood.
He shut his eyes against it.
He spoke the horse‘s name,
softly, & slept. In cold dawn light,
the head wore a shy grin
like a scarecrow. Flies crawled
in & out of its nose. The boy
lifted it & walked. His clothes
bloodblack. Look, dead men
& women beside the road.
Oracle fools in their shacks.
He carried the head under
the sun. The burntlands a slash
in the earth. Charred trees
& boulders scattered by gods.
A vulture wheeled. The boy
screamed at it, dryly, dropping
the head. Worms boiled in its nose.
Worms ate its blackberry eyes.
The boy curled in the dirt & dreamt
that souls swam from the head
toward him across a dark channel.
He dreamt it was his father‘s head.
They had the same greasy hair.
He carried it day & night,
talking to himself: a rasping,
easy to ignore. He collapsed on a hill
above the village of his grand-
mother. The head, its broken teeth
& swollen tongue, mocked him.
A vulture in feather robes, like Solomon
of the Bible, stood on his chest.
Below, in the castiron dawn,
his grandmother touched her head
to the ground.