of the Renegade Horses
Dr. Mario Padilla
I remember at sunset, sand swirling
in the chaos of hooves,
how we sent the horses galloping across the rose-painted desert.
Then at night, singing her songs before the fire,
she sat cross-legged inside an indigenous shawl,
interwoven with a polished pointed bone and loom
into the colors of the wild horses we men had run,
hot and lathered into the log-notched stall,
the work that made us men somehow,
as she methodically stirred a corn and comino broth,
her delicate throat filling our mute observation with song.
They were not songs to identify story,
but rare sounds,
like when the trees bend and moan, leaning in the Westers,
blowing steel cold air off the snowcapped Sierras.
And after the firesong and warm broth,
with coyotes howling their own dark cavernous craving,
I remember her coarse hands on the nape of my neck,
the nimble fingers that had spun the fabric we lay upon,
that weaved the multi-colored shawl as she sang,
and braided hemp rope used to capture the foals,
my brown skin now the masa she worked, kneading the flesh,
her powerful fingers lifting off the day’s labor of pain.
And I remember after sex, the space
before we drifted off into sleep,
that at times seemed filled with the sound of hooves,
the young dreams she rode at seventeen, wild eyed,
stampeding through the meditative hush after satiation’s solitude.
When she came to me at twenty, she had already learned
how to sing their departure, her passionate, untamed dreams,
to sing herself out of the desert, like Buffy St. Marie,
shifting and lunging disquietly on the pillow,
straining against the rope tethers like renegade horses.
And I remember the mature round belly
With the lonesome task of singing.
They died together on her bloody shawl
in the crude and suffocating landscape.
And always, I’ll remember the sound of her final song,
that climbed up out of her empty womb
and through the uneasy horses,
till it tore a hole through the log-notched fences,
sending whatever she once believed of music—
wild and waterless—out into the unforgiving desert.
Mario Rene Padilla's poetry and
fiction have appeared in numerous periodicals, such as North American
Review, The Antioch Review, New Letters, Americas Review, Atlanta
Review, Visions International, Negative Capability, INKWELL Magazine,
Chiron Review, and Explorations 2000. Currently, he is working on
an ongoing collection of short stories entitled Journey to Tenochtitlan,
which focuses on the Mexican-American experience, the issues and
challenges of cross-cultural identity. Mr. Padilla recieved a B.S.
degree from the Ohio State University, M.A. in English from Loyola
Marymount, and a Ph. D. in Comparative Literature from the University
of Southern California. He is a full-time instructor of Creative
Writing, English and Latin American Literature at Santa Monica College.