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                 - Picasso, 1907

by joseph fasano




Banishment is everyone’s story—


and if you, too, had come a long way

through the desert;

if you, too, had come a long way


through the one rough country of your own life,

what would you bring with you

if not your own death,


dignified in its invisible bridle?  What would you have

that hadn’t carried you?


Say it:  Once

you were a child in the wilderness.  Once


you pressed your own face

to the wild thing, its dark heart


like a hymnal in the wind’s

hands, and asked it, in clear tones, where it was going.  Once


you kissed the blank script

of the lash.


Say it:  If the world had broken you

like a great colt, if the world had knelt you


deep into the soil of your own life,

would you not lay


your great face in the red earth?  Would you not say

what has no shadow has no way to love?


Love, we have come this far

through our own lives.  We have carried


our hearts like tattered

saddles.  Madness


is a music only one can hear.  Madness

is the great mane


on your shoulder, turning you

toward a bare and troubled country, and no one


in the torn thorn

of that blankness.


Say it:  Once

you lay, a great mare, in the wilderness.  Men came


and sat there on their saddles,

watching you in the cold throes


of your labor,

old snow darkening their shoulders.


You have carried

the filly of your one life.  You have carried it


through the mad heart

of this land.


Tell it.  Tell it.  Tell it:


The darkness speaks
to each of us in the beginning.
It holds our hearts
like a wild thing in its bridle:


I promise, it says,

you will not be given shelter.

I promise you
these three things
as you enter:

the deep green

and the mad hands of your breakers—

And the moments you're delivered
from your own ghosts
like a filly in the fillymaster's hands.

Joseph Fasano is the author of the novel The Dark Heart of Every Wild Thing (Platypus Press, 2020) and four books of poetry: Fugue for Other Hands (2013), Inheritance (2014), Vincent (2015), and The Crossing (2018).  His honors include the Rattle Poetry Prize, the Cider Press Review Book Award, and a nomination for the Poets' Prize, "awarded annually for the best book of verse published by a living American poet two years prior to the award year."  His writing has appeared in The Times Literary Supplement, The Yale Review, The Southern Review, The Missouri Review, American Poets, Tin House, Verse Daily, The PEN Poetry Series, the Academy of American Poets' poem-a-day, and the anthology Poem-a-Day: 365 Poems for Every Occasion (Abrams, 2016), among other publications.  He teaches at Columbia University and Manhattanville College, and he is the Founder of the Poem For You Series.

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