At the fence line, I was about to call him in when,
at two-thirds profile, head low
and away from me, he fell first
to his right front knee
and then the left, and he was down,
dead before he hit the...
My father saw him drop, too,
and a neighbor, who walked over.
He was a good horse, old,
spavined, eating grass during the day
and his oats and hay
at night. He didn't mind, or try to boss, the cows
with which he shared these acres.
My father said: Happens. Our neighbor,
named Malcolm, walked back to his place
and was soon grinding toward us
with his tractor's new backhoe,
of which he was proud
but so far used only to dig two sump holes.
It was the knacker who'd haul away a cow.
A horse, a good horse, you buried
where he, or she, fell. Malcolm
cut a trench beside the horse
and we pushed him in.
I'd already said goodbye
before I tried to close his eyes.
Our neighbor returned the dirt
from where it came. In it: stones,
stones never seen before
by a human's, nor even a worm's, eye.
With the back of a shovel
we tamped the dirt down.
One dumb cow
stood by. It was a Friday.
For supper we ate hot dogs, with beans
on buttered white bread. Every Friday,
hot dogs and beans.
"Dead Horse" by Thomas Lux, from Child Made of Sand. © Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012.