Different-Colored Horse

by Emily O’Neill

She says we are going to Oz, but it hasn’t
been painted yet; pockets the cones from my macula,

won’t let me see color. Says with a shovel we’ll arrive faster than weather.
Dig. Pull at the ground until it is part of you. End up in the orchard

instead of in town. We are both dogs now and everything is new.
Every corner smells like a secret, a mistake. That ax there is enchanted;

it will chop down the woodsman until he is a wood stove.
We watch it happen. Animals see such magic daily.

The blood pools black in everything
we’ve touched. There, we are burning now. I read it

in the newspaper. She plays stupid. Drinks from the stream
without thinking. Reaches for my hand in the dark.

She wants the Emerald City but can only see sand. The grains float
up and over her. She can’t catch them in her hands, can’t

fix her gaze, does not make lists. The bitch only claims cold.
She forgot her sweater in Kansas. Forgot how long this might take.

Forgot I can smell when she is wrong. She calls it holding her breath
when we pass through the woods. I call it walking. I know better than her.

When we come to the forest’s edge the first true color we find is red.
She hurries and my knees burn. We are so close to salmon, giving

chase to some forgotten yet familiar place. If we weren’t rushing,
we wouldn’t bleed this way. If it was blood she wanted,

why not sever the nerve or flay the skin? Blood is the red we could’ve found
without moving an inch. What a waste.

If I could, I’d lay her leeches in the grass.
Empty-handed, she could fold like a poppy in snow.

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