It had to have been over forty years ago
near Galesburg, late in summer the horses
got loose. In the blackness of dark August
the three of them stood on the road
communing their warm bellies and breath
that smelled of oats and earthy straw
with the moon that slid its crescent nail
through the inky velour coverlet of sky.
A horse is not concerned about the future,
and does not care about the open gate or lazy barn
that vacantly awaits farmer, beast and bale.
Perhaps their knees were locked in standing sleep
and only the turning of one flickering eye,
flashed wild too late, perceived the danger.
In the backseat of the car, two sisters
on a double date; their driver and his brother
coming over the hill didn’t see in time
the trio of horses standing together in the road.
The metal impacted the first and cracked
the long, smooth muzzle, in an instant killed,
but the second took the strike to cannon, gaskin,
hock, and roiled until he had to be put down.
There was no saving him. Nor the third,
gone crazy, stricken with loss and trauma.
One sister can remember now, “When
you look into a horse’s eye, you can see
beneath the gloss of caramel fracturing
a fever of wildness, of trembling night.”
An Angel in Headlights
In deep winter snow, late at night and 20 F below,
something kept coming undone. Traveling downstate
on Christmas night in a blizzard, if we stopped the car,
the headlights failed and refused to come back on.
An electrical failure, a contact not making contact,
a filament no longer firing, quartz-iodine waning
in tungsten deposits, reflector intrusion from the winter wet—
either way, the two Sylvania Silverstar lamps were dead.
My father stood on the side of the interstate highway
with rope in his hands, and two emergency flashlights
from beneath the front seat to tie to the fender, a last
ditch effort to get us somewhere warm for the night,
a hotel somewhere down the road. It was so cold,
his breath made smoky billows in the night air.
His face was tight and pinned back in a grimace,
fingers fumbling with the fibre of the ropes.
Something was coming together. I was nine, I knew
no better. I prayed for an angel to come and save
my father’s frozen fingers, growing red and raw
out in the frostbitten night. Suddenly, the headlights
lit up his body. Surprised and sleepy as I was,
I watched and said nothing. My father was still,
standing in the lights, flakes of white illuminated
in scatters around him, darkness and the swish
of cars beyond him. I could feel him wanting
to cry. Instead, he untied the dimming flashlights
from the fender and crawled back inside the car.
I shuffled against the case of his twelve string guitar
and informed my father quietly that God had sent
an angel to fix the broken headlights, to turn them
on for us again. All I had to do was pray and ask.
Then Dad exhaled a smile into the warmth,
and we drove off slowly towards the family farm.
Maybe it was just a filament finally making contact.
Maybe an angel can become the right spark of heat
inside a headlamp, the opportune ignition.
Miranda Barnes is a poet and writer originally from the US, now living in the UK. Her work has appeared in a number of journals in the US, including Ruminate Magazine and AfterHours: A Journal of Chicago Writing and Art. Recent poems have appeared in Lighthouse Journal (Gatehouse Press), Blue Fifth Review, and The Beacon (Lighthouse Poole), while others are forthcoming in Confingo, The Cresset, and Irisi Magazine. Miranda teaches Poetry and other genres whilst pursuing her PhD at Bath Spa University.