I stood by the dark barn and called 
and called to her by name, 
into the labyrinth of stalls 
and webs and smells, where I could see 
nothing in the bent light. And when she came 
she came bowing to me

out of the darkness, 
bending her neck through the half-gate 
to test my purposes: 
winter-rugged, high-cared, calm 
and skeptical of gifts. Her breath 
spread its fur across my palm

as I offered it, the ball of her nose 
worked nimble as fingers: she picked 
at the oats 
I held out scrupulously, 
as though they might be attached 
to my skin in some secret human way

she couldn’t see. When they were gone, 
as evenly as she’d come 
she turned 
and walked off into the barn 
and left me watching. So I never learned 
more than she’d offered:

whether she was sheltering 
a coldwater foal, putting herself 
between me and the breathing 
fact, unused to the December air