Horse Latitudes (Excerpt)
by Paul Muldoon
Her grandfather’s job was to cut
the vocal cords of each pack mule
with a single, swift excision,
a helper standing by to wrench
the mule’s head fiercely to one side and drench
it with hooch he’d kept since Prohibition.
“Why,” Carlotta wondered, “that fearsome tool?
Was it for fear the mules might bray
and give their position away?”
At which I see him thumb the shade
as if he were once more testing a blade
and hear the two-fold snapping shut
of his four-fold, brass-edged carpenter’s rule:
“And give away their position.”
by Paul Muldoon (1951 – )
They’re kindly here, to let us linger so late,
Long after the shutters are up.
A waiter glides from the kitchen with a plate
Of stew, or some thick soup,
And settles himself at the next table but one.
We know, you and I, that it’s over,
That something or other has come between
Us, whatever we are, or were.
The waiter swabs his plate with bread
And drains what’s left of his wine,
Then rearranges, one by one,
The knife, the fork, the spoon, the napkin,
The table itself, the chair he’s simply borrowed,
And smiles, and bows to his own absence.