Sleep is water. I’m an old man surging
upriver on the back of my dream horse
that I haven’t seen since I was ten.
We’re night riders through cities, forests, fields.
I saw Stephanie standing on the steps of Pandora’s Box
on Sheridan Square in 1957. She’d never spoken
to me but this time, as a horse lover, she waved.
I saw the sow bear and two cubs. She growled
at me in 1987 when I tried to leave the cabin while her cubs
were playing with my garbage cans. I needed a drink
but I didn’t need this big girl on my ass.
We swam up the Neva in St. Petersburg in 1972
where a girl sat on the bank hugging a red icon
and Raskolnikov, pissed off and whining, spat on her feet.
On the Rhône in the Camargue fighting bulls
bellowed at us from a marsh and 10,000 flamingos
took flight for Africa.
This night-riding is the finest thing I do at age seventy-two.
On my birthday evening we’ll return to the original
pasture where we met and where she emerged from the pond
draped in lily pads and a coat of green algae.
We were children together and I never expected her return.
One day as a brown boy I shot a wasp nest with bow and arrow,
releasing hell. I mounted her from a stump and without
reins or saddle we rode to a clear lake where the bottom
was covered with my dreams waiting to be born.
One day I’ll ride her as a bone-clacking skeleton.
We’ll ride to Veracruz and Barcelona, then up to Venus.
Thanks to Alison McGhee for her curation of these beautiful poems.
For more information on Jim Harrison, please click here: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/jim-harrison