I  D R E A M  O F  H O R S E S

I have such an embarrassing
bounty of strawberries this year:
the garden’s ruined—the house
where you and your sister were girls
is full of strangers—

still, I come in from the dark
with my teeth full of pulp
and my hands dyed deep red.
You are sleeping. I have five
sweet hours, at least, until you know
what I have done.


I dream of horses. White horses,
horse of the sea, white horses.
They are arguing
about French cigarettes, Gauloises,
Gitanes, filtered, unfiltered—
Brandy, the new mare
who I can’t afford to keep,
says: ‘Old man,
the days when you longed
for love are gone—love
whose name is a name
for the silence that follows
the glory of God—
gone are the happy hours
when you carried with you
another’s trouble, gone
are the days when you
longed for love.’


Are God’s stables, like mine,
full of chestnut and sable horses,
too beautiful to turn out?
Are the hands of God,
like mine, red with the residue
of thought?


Even joy multiplies
the things I can’t live without:
you will be awake soon.
By the time you walk out
to the strawberry patch,
I will be on horseback.

TOBY ALTMAN is an American poet based in Philadelphia. In 2009, he was awarded the Lois Morrell Poetry Prize. He has completed a manuscript of poems, Twelve Rhetorics (2009) and a chapbook Koriambos (2010).