Megan Levad

That pony is never leaving the pasture.
That pony is old, its hooves have foundered
because there is a girl somewhere
always a girl somewhere
who forgets she has a pony.
The girl has other interests, like lying

on the floor of her bedroom, raising patterns
in the aquamarine bedroom carpet
with her shining nails, looking in the mirror
while listening to songs that make her cry. Animals
don’t make her cry anymore. Love does.

The pony will never leave the pasture
and the girl never goes to the pasture
so the gate is never opened.
The gate is hardly a gate, really.
It’s a piece of fencing tied with wire
to two posts the girl pounded
in years ago, a project with her father.
So the gate is another piece
of the fence, which means
there is no gate, only a way

to open the fence. The pony
doesn’t know any different
and the pony doesn’t mind.
He came from a home with too many boys
and too many dogs, a home where
he was teased, because the boys
were teased and he was one of them.
Wasn’t he? That’s where he learned to bite.
So he bites the girl and she stays
away, and his days can be
spent eating, watching the horizon
for coyotes, and remembering

another home, a first home, the fat midnight scent
of his mother’s flank, the warm, busy
barn where someone, very early
in his life, taught him to drink
from a bucket, wear a harness, readied him
for what was to come, for this—

This is what the girl thinks of
when she thinks of the pony, and then,
before she can think of the pony himself, of what
he might like, or dislike, before she can think
even the shallowest thoughts about her pony
she thinks instead about how she hasn’t thought of him
for days, puts on another song, regrets
the abstract pastel wallpaper her mother
let her choose herself.

And then the morning comes, the morning
for which they’ve been waiting. The morning the girl’s father
goes to the pasture himself, someone’s got to
take care of that pony, so he puts on his boots
and he brings his gun
but what does he find? No more pony.

These horses.
These horses are not our horses. The gate
untied, the crabgrass smashed, but that’s
how crabgrass always looks. There is only
the sun, and these rippling young gods

with their faces in the creek, no
evidence, no explanation
for this gift, this unexpected gift,
and we do not deserve it.

Megan Levad is the author of Why We Live in the Dark Ages and What Have I to Say to You. A recent MacDowell Fellow, her poems have appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, Poem-a-Day, Granta, Fence, and the Everyman’s Library anthology Killer Verse. Megan is also a librettist. One of her most recent projects, When There Are Nine, a song cycle about Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg composed by Kristin Kuster, debuted at the 2019 Cabrillo Festival, where Megan was the Writer-in-Residence.