Pastoral

My father is arguing with his father
about killing a horse. Go on, he says,
Do it. Handing over the rifle,
he steps a few paces back,
between stems of high yellow grass.

It is the best thing to do.
The horse is old; its ribs stick out
like a tunnel of bent, threshed wheat.
The wind moves through it, and the horse
is thirsty, making a hollow sound.
The horse has not remembered
to be hungry for a very long time.
Under the weight of some secret knowledge,
it stands at the edge of the field.

My father steps back, wanting
to know what to expect. As he walks
forward, the older man leaves
a half-bent trail in the grass.
Reaching the horse, he embraces it
like a child.

He brushes its soft shoulders,
its flanks. He leads it to the forest.
Go on, he says. Go on.