TRANSIT, BY KELLY MCQUAIN
Was there a horse? I wanted there to be one,
all those days driving hard-knuckle back roads
among cornfields, circling. A white horse
standing by a derelict barn, the barn overtaken
by ivy, the horse's head slung over a fence,
a white animal so majestic I stop to offer
an apple and to lay my hand across the ridge
bridging its unfathomable eyes. So what,
the horseflies? So what, those reckless
humid days spent retracing old roads
so deep-veined they fixated my body between
highland and holler when what I ached for
were skylines, foreign vistas, the going
if not the getting there, new growth inching
over old. It was not enough anymore to anchor
myself to the smell of clover, summer peaches
a tide of bluegrass rippling my ankles. Oh,
how I needed there to be a horse! An animal
I could pin my heart upon, wriggle free
of my snakeskin self, allow thunderheads to growl
inside me. Yet all I'd learn of flux and freedom
would be my head leaning against a train window,
feeling the thrum of motion in the glass, watching
graffiti-covered bridges pass in a morning fog
that knows the silent prick of a gravedigger's woes.
There was no horse, only cars, only trains.
Unmoored longing: the trail I chose.
Kelly McQuain is the author of Velvet Rodeo, which was selected by poet C. Dale Young for the Bloom chapbook prize. His writing has appeared in The Pinch, Limp Wrist, Painted Bride Quarterly, Knockout, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Kestrel, Rogue Agent, Redivider, and Cleaver, as well as in numerous anthologies, most recently Best New Poets 2020, The Queer South, and LGBTQ Fiction and Poetry from Appalachia. He has been both a Sewanee Writers’ Conference Scholar and a Lambda Literary Fellow, as well as a Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee. As an artist, his series of writer portraits appear on the cover of Fjords Review.