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Leaving the Pony

My nine-year-old sister hugs the rails, coughing her tears
As mother packs the trunk of her old Ford Falcon
In the driveway of our white Connecticut house.

I don’t see this. I’m on a beach somewhere in Puerto Rico,
Sixteen, angry, crazy, I swim far out
Beyond the breakers off Luquillo Beach
Slapping my palms into the blue slat waves.

Swimming too far, out where the sea becomes
A calm void below me; then, I float, staring up, water deaf,
Into silver sky, drifting on oblivion.
I could drown here, I know, but it’s better than

Watching the horses for the last time
In the pasture beyond the white four board fence or
Trying not to see my mother’s face
Masked, absent-eyed, or turning my head
So I do not see my father tenderly prying
My sister’s fingers from the boards one by one
Chipped paint in her nail moons, smelling like apples

Sliced and dropped in the fescue where her pony
Nibbles them with velvet whiskered lips or
Seeing mother and daughter driving away, backing down
The long hilled-driveway, heading for that new land
Where go all orphans of divorce
That land of wan light
Where mothers wander halls smoking their Viceroys
With aubergine kisses deep into the dark of
Nights darker than all other nights.

I swim above: just barely breathing, only imagining
(As my father claims he does for the next thirty years)
This leaving, this agonizing gerund that
Reaches back elastic all these years:
That day in August, they are still
Leaving the pony, and my sister’s fey hand
Rises like one drowning from the back seat.

--Cassandra Robison