Sarah Gridely

Brown Study at Horseshoe Lake

We’re used to the points
of departure— departures water’s left expressing

                    anywhere where disrupted. We’re at the fitful

nature of a wake:
some hundred ducks on water, a gray

                    heron stepping

over mud,
a wild enlargement of being

                    as he’s opened knifelike

into flight, lifting
our spirits

                    exactly from the shallowed lake.

We’ll think from the other side
how far analogy

                    could hope to go—as when, at the earliest

damming of the brook, water had had
a shade in it like iron. Now,

                    across the surface, some tool

might have traced the tinted world
with frantically stilling lines. We’re coming

                    to the amulet

we wanted it to be. Around
this horseshoe nailed to sky, nailed to light

                    through the body of water,

it’s the walk
that opens out, the ring

                    we slip inside as if luck

could be placed
or worn into being.

                    It’s the wet, electric scent of thicket, a stony,

broken dam,
the grove of chosen trees, an equal

                    sourness imagined

in the knobbed gloss
of cherry, the crabapples’

                    shrunken red, in a picture unsure

of its own perspective, yet perspectival
at its core.

                    Called to it late in the day,

we’re rounding off the differences, learning a curve
that doesn’t close,

                    a method for knowing

nothing for long—the one blur
of distinct trees

                    bluing to scalded periphery. Midway

a different century, heading for the fields

                    of a kneeling farrier,

we might
have heard it ring.

                    The horse’s chestnut withers

flash like a mineral in the sun.
We’ll have it

                    this way or not at all, our animated

semblance of persistence,
hot, forged, cooled, and evidentiary.

                    It’s history we’re practicing

—or just a chancing
forward—to walk

                    the charm each day from end

to end,
the weirdly rigorous dream

                    of falling or staying in love. What comes

behind us now
are vestiges that won’t catch up,

                    thin as leaf,

later than tied-down morning shadows, late
in the sense

                    that echoes count as late, calling themselves away

without a thing returning. To attach where it can
for a time

                    must be harder

for religion than it sounds: handmade
nails, handmade brooms and barrels, ingeniously

                    simple clothespins.

If we know
no Shakers anymore

                    it isn’t for want of trying. The strict

vow of celibacy
called for willing converts.

                    We’ve heard

a kind of singing here.
Just here

                    they would have sized a horseshoe

to protect her, to improve a horse’s
gait, her conformation (how

                    she stands), to avert the possible

interferences, such as
winging in

                    when striding. Light

done back,
reversed from ice, should find the branches

                    bare, having nothing to light but bark.

But leaves this late
are penny-dark. The trees have contrary

                    leaves, and we look to find

them shining. Whoever found
the term

                    broad daylight

must have lived this dream
of ample distance.

                    We’ll see your coyote

light as winter grass, sitting sentry

                    among our worlds, our shadows

by the howl

                    long enough to taper.



Sarah Gridely is an associate professor of English at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. She has published three books of poetry: Weather Eye Open (University of California Press, 2005), Green is the Orator (University of California Press, 2010), and Loom (Omnidawn Publishing, 2013). Her new manuscript, Insofar, was awarded the 2019 Green Rose Prize by Forrest Gander and will be published by New Issues Press in April 2020. Poems in Insofar received the 2018 Cecil Hemley Award and the 2019 Writer Magazine/Emily Dickinson Award from the Poetry Society of America.