At dusk, everything blurs and softens. From here out over the long valley, the fields and hills pull up the first slight sheets of evening, as, over the next hour, heavier, darker ones will follow. Quieted roads, predictable deer browsing in a neighbor’s field, another’s herd of heifers, the kitchen lights starting in many windows. On horseback I take it in, neither visitor nor intruder, but kin passing, closer and closer to night, its cold streams rising in the sugarbush and hollow. Half-aloud, I say to the horse, or myself, or whoever: let fire not come to this house, nor that barn, nor lightning strike the cattle. Let dogs not gain the gravid doe, let the lights of the rooms convey what they seem to. And who is to say it is useless or foolish to ride out in the falling light alone, wishing, or praying, for particular good to particular beings, on one small road in a huge world? The horse bears me along, like grace, making me better than what I am, and what I think or say or see is whole in these moments, is neither small nor broken. For up, out of the inscrutable earth, have come my body and the separate body of the mare: flawed and aching and wronged. Who then is better made to say be well, be glad, or who to long that we, as one, might course over the entire valley, over all valleys, as a bird in a great embrace of flight, who presses against her breast, in grief and tenderness, the whole weeping body of the world?
“Riding out at Evening,” by Linda McCarriston, is from her collection Talking Soft Dutch, printed by Texas Tech University Press. Copyright © 1984 by Linda McCarriston. The poem first appeared in POETRY magazine. Reprinted by permission of the author.