by Eric Pankey Those days as I drove over the rise and my headlights hit the horse, I'd brake, startled, believing the horse was loose. It stood outside the short, tumbled fence. By that time the sun would be up, but the highway ahead of me still dark, the hills falling away from the road casting their shadows all the way down the incline to the Cedar River. All spring the horse had grazed the wide ditch along Highway One, one leg tied to a post in the ditch's center. The white horse cut a perfect circle in the rise and fall of weeds. Today, driving that road again after a summer away, I was already crossing the bridge, sunlight breaking in flashes behind the green paint and rust of support beams, when I realized I had not seen the horse. Ahead of me the slimmest of moons persisted in the morning sky, white. Perhaps the place where the horse had stood, as round and hard as a threshing floor, was now reclaimed by coreopsis, clover and goldenrod. Or perhaps, the trampled earth remained smooth and worn. As I drove it was hard to know which I would choose if it were my choice.
From "Heartwood" by Eric Pankey (Atheneum: $15.95; 64 pp.). Pankey's first collection of poems, "For the New Year," received the Academy of American Poets' Walt Whitman Award in 1964. Pankey has been the recipient of grants from the Ingram Merrill Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. He coordinates the Writing Program at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo. 1988, Eric Pankey. Reprinted from "Heartwood" by permission of Atheneum publishers, an imprint of Macmillan Publishing Co.