Michael Bowden
Horse Drowned in a Sea of Blue Wildflowers


On the slab of the grave on the Day of the Dead a warm can of Coors. Pumpkin empanadas in a waxed paper bag. A few spots of grease bleeding through. A few ghosts. Miners rising from earth to light at the end of their underground shift. Soaked workshirts and boots. Laces impossibly knotted. Puzzles for their daughters to untangle. Horse drowned in a sea of blue wildflowers. How a Spanish poet from the last century might say it. But it was stench and the cloud of flies thick in June alfalfa which led us down the road with no name. Into the tall sawgrass. Toward something hidden and fetid that told us what we’d find when we parted the blades. Blue wildflowers ebbing from a black leather face. From eyes looking at nothing and the curious handful of undigested straw beneath a decomposing ribcage. The body’s unfinished business. Nearby, a fieldhand’s roofless shack. A couple of mud walls slumped around the abandoned bedspring left inside. Its pallet of blossoms the color of empty sky above torn sacks of nitrate. How small the infinite grows. Wind blusters through limbs of bent cottonwood as if an ocean roars there. We know better because someone pulled a sheet over his yellow face, and words change nothing. What a cheap revelation. This bag of sweetbread no one opens.

Pulling Oars


The music which rose from the lyres on the shelves of the built-ins fell silent. Sirens no longer called from the yellowed chapter of the epic with its embossed cover. Its faded endsheet maps of the journey’s path--an interrupted line crossing and recrossing itself until it trails west into the Unknown. But its sailor still listened, on his way to an island home where death and matrimony waited. Wax stopping the ears of the crew. Their naked backs torqued, pulling oars. Outside, birds in dull crowns use a cypress to gain purchase on the sky. Sunlight hammering their closed wings into tin. At the same time students in a classroom recite the powers of dead gods heavy equipment blades boneshards and the torn sole of a yucca sandal from a patch of desert down the road. Men and women in orange hardhats pour the slabs of new foundations. As the machinery complains, a woman with lines on her face presses a wicker basket’s linen handkerchief. The ends of a few threads working loose from the initial of her husband’s last name.