The black canvas cover claps and rattles
in the wind, her grip on the saddle horn
whitening her knuckles. She has lived
six years on planet earth, and like other
children of the storm has been advised,
The horse will bring you home. Its name is Gray,
but for reasons known only to herself,
she, a country girl plain and simple, calls it
John the Baptist. John the Baptist, take me home,
she shouts into the wind. In the song of life
this will be her refrain in coming years.
The bruises from her first man, the savage
loneliness when dreams depart. The next,
the good one, gone for years in the Pacific—
one island, then another. The waiting,
flat and wide as oceans. The stories
that she tells her children late at night,
the lies she tells herself. The prayer, beginning
always, John the Baptist, bring him home.
And then, one fine day, the rumble, shriek,
and sigh of a returning train. The wives
in little bunches, their cries and chatter—
birds at sunrise, matins for the soul.
The fragrance of her blouse freshly starched
and ironed, the green one that he always loved.
The waiting. John the Baptist, take us home.
B.H. Fairchild’s poems have appeared in the New Yorker, Paris Review, Hudson Review, Poetry, Sewanee Review, and many other journals. His third book, The Art of the Lathe (Alice James), was a finalist for the National Book Award. His fourth book, Early Occult Memories of the Lower Midwest (Norton), received the National Book Critics Circle Award.