Mukahara

By Jessica Poli

Yesterday I saw a tree the color
of the sky it stood against
and thought of Rothenberg’s painting 
of the translucent horse
barely outlined in a pink haze—the same color 
that lit the glass buildings some mornings

in Pittsburgh, where I studied photography 
for one misplaced year. There,
in a darkroom, a girl held my hips 
while I mixed chemicals that smelled 
like sweat licked off of skin,
and the shape of her hands
felt like shadows touching me. I told her

about the horse that lived
at the end of the road where I grew up,
how I fed it handfuls of grass
and dandelions from across 
the electric fence. That horse

was a kind of shadow too, forgotten 
by the neighbor who asked for it
for her birthday
and then never rode it. Rothenberg’s horse

is mid-gallop, legs folded,
body suspended
in the pink air. Where is that girl

from the darkroom now? She’d been living 
in a tent in the woods when I knew her.
Her arms were covered in red crisscrossed lines. 
She told me not to worry about her,
and I, young, didn’t. Later, I had dreams

of pink fields, a figure blurring
along the tree line.

Jessica Poli is the author of four chapbooks and co-editor of the collection More in Time: A Tribute to Ted Kooser (University of Nebraska Press, 2021). She is a Ph.D. student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, founder and editor of Birdfeast, and Assistant Poetry Editor of Prairie Schooner.

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