Here at Grist, despite our best efforts, sometimes we make mistakes. On very rare occasions, we omit whole lines from poems without any of us noticing — without even the author herself noticing until the print copy arrives in the mail. In addition to the mild embarrassment that we feel on these occasions, when the work is as compelling and powerful as Jane Ann Fuller’s “Did Anyone Think to Ask the Horse?” we also secretly feel a little pleased to have an excuse to present the corrected poem online so that our readers (and the entire Internet!) can admire it in its entirety:
Did Anyone Think to Ask the Horse?
Jane Ann Fuller
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse / Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.
– W.H. Auden, “Musée des Beaux Arts”
The slaughtered babies were painted over with details such as bundles, food and animals so that, instead of a massacre, it appeared to be a more general scene of plunder.
– Desmond Shawe-Taylor and Jennifer Scott, on Bruegel’s Massacre of the Innocents
What if I told you, daughter, you scream like an animal, half wild,
half domesticated, your naked, dirty haunches slick with sweat
and blood, and that it’s okay to forgive yourself for being unconscious
on the night you were drugged, raped, and narrowly escaped
that there’s nothing to forgive?
Would you believe me? If not this, then what would you believe?
What if I told you
that every night, faceless, in my dreams you star
a survivor, caught beneath the weight of a dark horse
that’s fallen on the road, what has tried
to find its way inside you
twice, three times your size.
I see that he did not succeed. I see, but what if I say
nothing? What if we shared this
knowledge, peripherally? What if some master artist painted you
as a smashed bushel of fruit, your pale legs thrashing
out like corn stalks or milk-weed popping. Worse, what if he portrayed your soul
Where will you sleep? Where have you been sleeping?
Will the horse, who by now is every man
you’ve ever tried to trust
scratch his innocent behind on a tree? Will he
find relief? What if the tree is in a painting no one will discuss? What if
the tree were paper, something we could fold into meaning,
origami? What if the man who rode in on the horse
is skewering a woman behind the brick
and mortar house so we can not see?
If the plowed rows are tinctured with pinkish, sanguine light;
if the horse retires to his stall after dark,
whether or not he sleeps, the buzzing of a fly
making him twitch with no remorse; and if the moon’s face is blank
as a pickerel, who will remember?
Jane Ann Fuller is the 2015 recipient of Shenandoah’s James Boatwright III Poetry Prize. Holding an MFA from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, her poems have appeared in Denver Quarterly, Waccamaw, jmww, Aethlon: Journal of Sports Literature, Fifth Wednesday, and others. Poems are forthcoming in Atticus Review, and The Pikeville Review. She co-authored Revenants: A Story of Many Lives, awarded an Ohio Arts Council Special Projects Grant. She is a guest editor of the Confluence Series, from Ander-Mose Studios in Ithaca, New York, and she lives and teaches in the Appalachian foothills of southeastern Ohio.