Christine Gelineau
Putting the Filly Down


small click of a word to last so long

It's the improbably soft
and lively look
of her mane I won't forget.

The body being small, they
lashed her by the pasterns to a chain
across the empty arms of a bucket loader
and lifted her inverted in the air. The arms
held her out before the tractor like an offering,
and she rode that way to the grave
in stiff dignity, save for the mocking
animation of her mane, silken
and playful in the face of February.

No ceremony or Astroturf disguises here:
this grave is raw-lipped and greedy
as any hole you ever fill
with something you'd spent love on.

© Christine Gelineau
First appeared in Kalliope: A Journal of Women's Art, Summer 1997

for Gregory at thirteen

When I hear the hunter's
shots tell their quick
tale in the heart
of our November woods
I know at once the vulnerability
everything my son knew
until now has in the face
of the trembling
silence to follow.

In the stripped woods
he kneels with the hunter
beside the musky stillness.

The gap the knife opens
envelops him easily.

Glistening in its silver sac
what they mean to leave
behind they leave there
to cool in the darkening wood.

What my son knows now
they truss
and drag
deliberately home.

© Christine Gelineau
First appeared in Seneca Review, Fall 2001



xxxThe mothers seem already
xxxto have fo

xxxDolls emerge from tissue
xxxand the mothers admire
xxxthe honey-thick hair, lash-lined
xxxchina eyes, the crisp dresses.

xxxWhat the mothers have forgotten
xxxthe children know unfailingly.

xxxChildren croon
xxxto the frozen faces, their own
xxxfaces reflect inverted
xxxin the aggie eyes.

xxxVinyl shoes and small dresses
xxxare left to closets or the underworld
xxxof beds. Dynel hair
xxxknots and features grime while
xxxthe children and the blank-trunked
xxxdolls rehearse their
xxxlock-kneed goosestep.

xxxDolls serenely ride
xxxthe dump trucks, aeroplanes,
xxxor roller skates straight
xxxinto tragic accidents.

xxxPale eyes rolls shut
xxxin their heads as they fall.

xxxNo matter.

xxxIn the night those eyes
xxxclick open wide. Smiling
xxxtheir paralyzed smiles
xxxdolls leave the shelves, the beds.

xxxDeep in the darkness
xxxeach knows exactly
xxxhow to find us.

xxx© Christine Gelineau
xxxFirst appeared in American Literary Review, Spring 2001

A Short Poem About the Long Poem

The lyric poem then is
that moment in which you realize
your daughter's horse has
stepped into downed wire
and will surely panic.

In that suspended moment, the lyric
lets you off, releases you:
burned with the memory to be sure
but freed, loosed
in the space the lyric leaves
for the silences to speak.

The longer poem by contrast
requires you to stay mounted;
to watch her face
as the mare bolts, to pound
after her as if you could
control, rather than only
uncover over time, what must
come next: the mare racing riderless
and the still form curled
where it fell, nested motionless in the grass.

There is, you know, a desire
to remain with the unresolved
moment: the mare nearly
to the horizon, stirrups akimbo
as she runs and the reins
blown out, empty; there is a
desire never to ask
the only things that matter
for fear of what the answers might be.

The long poem asks
you to dismount
and go to her.

© Christine Gelineau
First appeared in Kalliope: A Journal of Women's Art, Summer 1997




last updated 3/3/09

Copyright Christine Gelineau 2006. All rights reserved.