A flake of hay is a section of a square bale
(the way it naturally divides).

Thank God for riding!
It fills me up
one hundred per cent!
The only time I don’t
about that ophtha . . .
dextra . . .
whatever he is,
oral surgeon.
He acts like a surgeon
in his gold wing tips—asking
for my phone
number! I remember the gold
shoes stage; that was
fifteen years sobriety—
versus twenty-six, when I have
real obligations.  I can’t
believe I’m saying
this! Miss Responsible
who slept through
every emergency phone
call about her elderly father in
the last three days, whose
husband, the actual
person, who never
had to count
his days of
not shooting cocaine
or whatever, answered
what the nurses
thought was my
home number. 
The thing that the
barn workers don’t
understand, Christy
declares with brio
is that “All flakes
are not equal.
If you can throw
the flake
over your head
you need to give the
horse more hay.”
Don’t let my father die in
Bed #37 in Sentara
Virginia Beach General
Hospital emergency
room alone. Please. I can’t
remember the last time
my husband
made eye contact with me.
Not the day he was
broadsided by a guy
running a red light
and thought he might have been
killed. All the airbags,
poofed on the passenger side.
When I got there, they
were draped over
the windows
like limp sails. He didn’t ask
me to come,
but it was in the teens,
and I thought, would
I want to
be standing out there waiting
for the police?  I actually
had to
say that to myself to get myself
to go.
“Transitional object,” that’s what
Katherine said a service dog
(I wrote “god”!)
would be, to help me
to get from here
to that book festival
in Virginia, where I was
“giving a reading and
moderating a
panel.” I was sitting in
her office talking ad
infinitum about
the service animal, I mean, dexa-
whatever, oral surgeon, that I
 wanted to take with
me. Never mind
that she shakes her leg, bored
out of her mind. She alternates
the kind face, the blank
impassive face, and
the laughing
face—and I adore all of them.
An hour has
passed and still no call
from Virginia Beach Ventura;
Sentara, I mean.  Please pay
attention to my father
in Bed #37.
My husband wiped
my father’s ass when he had
diarrhea, when he was
recovering from sepsis
two years ago. Eye contact
or no eye contact,
that pretty much
means I will be with
him for the rest of
my life, unless he
has sex, naked, with a man,
right in front of me. 
Every time I see that guy
I lose things. Yesterday it was one
glove, at the stable. It was right
after he’d asked
for my number
after the noon meeting. I was
in a fugue state. I love those
gloves because I can
clean out hooves
wearing them. They’re fleece; it should
have been impossible
really to lose it, because I just
had it and I have a finite number
of pockets. Two coats
and a down jacket
and ten pockets between them. And
then there was the time
this fall I lost my phone
in a fit of guilt and
right after I’d seen Dexa,
Hermes, whatever
his name is.
What happens when this guy
finds out I’m a hoarder? And the
other stuff.
Rachel died, they said, as they stood
by the gate of the
indoor arena.
I stopped Vaydran so I could
hear it better. Josie was
so . . . almost nonchalant.
Yeah, she said, I rode
with her this summer
at King’s Hill. She got stuck
on the tracks
and got hit by a train. I said, What?
She was in her twenties. 
I was supposedly
having a lesson with Christy and Cyndi,
but Christy was barely
paying any attention.
She was busy talking
with Josie. When
Josie started dissing her twin Mary’s husband
I resumed the trot at the other
end of the arena, getting
ready to canter
(not an easy thing, on that horse).
I didn’t want to hear it.
At my last lesson
four days ago, Christy said
You should have
seen the farrier
trying to get up the lane.
The ice was ridiculous. I stood on
the porch and thought
he’s not going
to make it. Even with
all of that
heavy stuff he carries
to give him
traction: the shoes, the forge,
the anvil.
Yesterday Christy wore
“Yaktrax” on her boots;
I asked Are those like
tire chains for your
feet? At home, my garage door
froze shut, and I couldn’t
get the firewood. And the
temperature went
to four below that night. (The poor
furnace was working
its ass off to keep up—
furnace that was
supposed to have been replaced
when we moved here
fourteen years ago.) The ice
was terrible. And long-lasting.
Rachel, everyone thought, got stuck
in it. Out in the country
Either slid onto the tracks
or got on and could not
get off. I don’t have
an explanation
for how it is I fell in love
with a horse.
She isn’t mine, and her sweetness
might be just indifference. 
I was so proud
to be riding her in
front of Josie,
who is the identical twin
of my former
trainer Mary (whose father lost their
farm in his third
bankruptcy, whose husband
apparently won’t let their baby
eat in the same room with them)—
Josie is venomous, that
much I can
state with
certainty. Who was
the god with the winged
shoes god of? Mischief makers,
messengers, thieves? Sounds about right.
I looked up the news reports on
Rachel. There was no
ice; the woman behind her
saw her “slowly edge”
onto the track
into the path of an oncoming
train. This was on the Tippecanoe and
Fountain County line. Her truck
was shoved into Fountain County so it
became the jurisdiction
that would handle
the rescue/recovery. Her husband, they
said, is a firefighter and was
a first
responder to the accident.
People have bad fights. Extremely
bad fights. People get
enraged. I’ve had some
doozies with my husband where
he almost hit me. He got on some
half-assed herbal meds. I got on none
and continued
to hoard. I love Hermes
with my heart and
soul. Trickster, that’s the word
I was looking for. Assistant to liminal
states. Transporting from
one realm to another. Transitional
object. I’m going to Al-Anon-,
CODA-, and service-animal- (not to
mention psychotherapy-) myself
to death until I get over him.

Dana Roeser’s fourth book, All Transparent Things Need Thundershirts, won the Wilder Prize at Two Sylvias Press and was published in September 2019. She is also the author of The Theme of Tonight’s Party Has Been Changed, recipient of the Juniper Prize, as well as Beautiful Motion and In the Truth Room, both winners of the Samuel French Morse Poetry Prize. Among her many awards and honors are the Great Lakes Colleges Association New Writers Award, the Jenny McKean Moore Writer-in-Washington Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a Pushcart Prize, and numerous residencies in the U.S. and abroad. She has read her work widely and taught in the MFA programs in poetry at Purdue, Butler, and Wichita State Universities. Recent poems have appeared, or are forthcoming, in Pushcart Prize XLIII, Crazyhorse, Laurel Review, Cimarron Review, Poetry, Diode, and Notre Dame Review. For more about Dana Roeser, please see

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