— after John Steffler’s “That Night We Were Ravenous”
Late July outside St. Isidore, summer heat creaking in the apple trees. Following the path to our tent—silver slug-eye glint of wet gravel, wind in grass and leaves, hills, trees, wilted during the day by heat and hangover, back to shaking shaggy backsides while thunder thumped and strobe lightning outlined the barn ahead, a DJ in a farmyard nightclub—some
bit of brightness separated from the rest and leapt toward us, maybe a preening posse of snowy owls, maybe a Great Dane with a hairdo, it was a
filly, wild child, free from sleep, weird with electricity. She charged out of the night buzzing and tripping, lines and stars, a fine piece of sky. We tried
to back away—graceless, stiff—but she pranced circles around us in platform heels.
She was the wheel of a wagon rolling loose, she struck us down.
She was a musical ride escaped from the travelling fair of our childhoods. She remembered us.
She coursed and sputtered.
Her eyes were like eyes watching whirlpools, like blossoms blossoming. Like elevator doors opening to the four hundred and forty-fourth floor.
She was warm, thunderstorm-scented, she nudged us like we were trees.
She made us wish we were dust on the smooth fabric of her stomach, she made us sweat.
She made us stutter. She was a cage full of fight.
A willow of a girl in a white dress. Shy, we whispered enchanté, offered our hands.
She could have cantered across the country.
She was headstrong relative of rhino. Still, she’d been lured by apples, bluegrass. Sold her soft body for room and board. She was renamed by Jacques Cartier. Claimed and claimed.
Men had tried to tame her. Horse-goddess, she’d worn a gold bridle and sipped from a bucket. Paced behind an electric line.
Now, stripped bare.
A piece of the province, rivers connecting lung-and-liver-shaped lakes.
She was a sashaying allegory. She was bones and ash. She was someone, not just someone’s daughter.
She slipped through our fingers. We drank hastily, gasping, splashing our faces. We shed our denim, rinsed each other’s skin.
That night, we slid in one sleeping bag, our bodies sparking blue bolts of static in the dark.
That night, we slept sweetly.
In our dreams, she was a vessel filled with birds. We touched her side, felt them flutter.