Daniel Neff

Even the Muzzle 

For Thunder, my grandpa's horse  

My grandpa hung the never-unbroken appaloosa’s corroded flaky-bronze shoes in the woodshed

next to saddle skull WWII purple heart. Anything of worth stapled to the woodshed’s

 

brackish white walls. Mystical or maybe mythical lands: this where my dad shot his Doberman. 

Here derelict railroads lattice Indiana copses. November to April icicles still hang off the woodshed 

 

the way my grandpa was found: 17 & patchy-faced — orangest of flowers. Bonfire we set to ourselves.

Delusion tho this story is it replaces his hollow memories of shoeing Thunder in the woodshed,

 

trapping in the riverbottom for muskrat, dropping acid in the Mojave, living to die oldest among men.

All his memories reduce to vague containers of ancestry as bitter & stale as a watercolor woodshed.

 

My grandpa made my dad mercy-shoot his childhood dog: lineage of choices. Then Grandpa Chuck

planted his horse under cowpats cremini soil — all except that drywall skull which would shed 

 

Thunder’s flesh leather. What made him familiar. My father found pills hidden in Grandpa’s hospital sheets 

after he died because some made his stool too soft or hard not perfect. Stubborn like oak wood & shedding

 

weight in those last months. Grandpa never ceded his skin. We’re only ineffective replicas 

of what we molt down in a kiln to ash & bone. I am denial & tinder, prime

                                                                        for burning alive. Perfect for hanging there.

Daniel Neff is a writer, teacher and organizer. Daniel has taught with the InsideOut Literary Arts Project in Detroit and at the University of Michigan. Their work has appeared or is forthcoming in DIAGRAM, Zyzzyva, Narrative and Phoebe, among others, in addition to winning an American Academy of Poets Prize. While living in southeast Michigan, Daniel also keeps a few plants alive, bakes bread and works on putting together a first poetry collection.

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