Requiescat in Pace

by Brenda Levy Tate
PenShells
First Place, April 2013
Judged by Linda Sue Grimes


I have made him no marker; his name twists
in silence beneath a granite rock laid above his sleep.
To anyone who did not love him, he rots anonymous –
only a dead horse, scooped under and gone.

From this new grave, edged with springtime clay,
a ribbon of melt water leaks and wends its slow
journey to his fence, the alder copse, my house-
shadow sharp and pointed across a forsaken pasture.

He’s been running these fields for thirty-three Junes
burning his coat to ginger; Octobers falling cool over
his starry head. At the end, I slipped him treats – molasses
and grated apple – which he chewed from duty and perhaps,
because he knew this was our last gift to each other.

The trickle shrinks and stops. Out on the road, a black
pickup kicks up more dust for his blanket. It is the morning
of the third day and his stone sits heavier than I ever
imagined it would.


Requiescat in Pace” dramatizes the despair of losing an animal friend, yet it also celebrates the gratitude of having experienced that relationship. The parallel of the melting ice and melting presence of the horse infuses this poem with its stunning vision, while the third stanza crystallizes the history of the dignified animal’s life. The final image of the “stone sit[ting] heavier than I ever / imagined it would” captures the speaker’s sorrow with beauty as well as clarity. --Linda Sue Grimes

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