One of my roommates, Annie, sat on a plane next to a lady named Matthea Harvey, who happens to be a poet I sort of adore. She also, to my great relief, happens to be an excellent comforter in times of very-high-altitude wind-tossed distress, and held my dear roommate’s hand as she trembled in her seat, and told her everything would be just fine, and showed her photos of her cat. This is exactly the kind of thing you need to see when in such a situation. Cats. They are the only solution to total, inconceivable terror. But not a bunch of cats, because cats in large groups are TERRIFYING. (I worked on a farm in Spain for a short period of time in 2009 and experienced just this terror every time I’d refill the cat food and about eighteen creatures would sprint in and set upon that bowl all at once, like vultures to a fresh carcass. Cree-py.)
Anyway, in homage to Ms. Harvey’s generosity, and, of course, her talent, I present this delightfully playful prose poem, mostly about ponies (another surefire solution to any kind of discomfort!) It sort of reminds me of Donald Barthelme, if you’ve ever read any of his stuff (WHICH YOU SHOULD! IT’S AWESOME. AND I’M WRITING IN CAPS LOCK TO EMPHASIZE JUST HOW AWESOME HE IS.)
Anyway, without further ado, I present:
THE CROWDS CHEERED AS GLOOM GALLOPED AWAY
Everyone was happier. But where did the sadness go? People wanted to know. They didn’t want it collecting in their elbows or knees then popping up later. The girl who thought of the ponies made a lot of money. Now a month’s supply of pills came in a hard blue case with a handle. You opened it & found the usual vial plus six tiny ponies of assorted shapes & sizes, softly breathing in the styrofoam. Often they had to be pried out & would wobble a little when first put on the ground. In the beginning the children tried to play with them, but the sharp hooves nicked their fingers & the ponies refused to jump over pencil hurdles. The children stopped feeding them sugarwater & the ponies were left to break their legs on the gardens’ gravel paths or drown in the gutters. On the first day of the month, rats gathered on doorsteps & spat out only the bitter manes. Many a pony’s last sight was a bounding squirrel with its tail hovering over its head like a halo. Behind the movie theatre the hardier ponies gathered in packs amongst the cigarette butts, getting their hooves stuck in wads of gum. They lined the hills at funerals, huddled under folding chairs at weddings. It became a matter of pride if one of your ponies proved unusually sturdy. People would smile & say, “this would have been an awful month for me,” pointing to the glossy palimino trotting energetically around their ankles. Eventually, the ponies were no longer needed. People had learned to imagine their sadness trotting away. & when they wanted something more tangible, they could always go to the racetrack & study the larger horses’ faces. Gloom, #341, with those big black eyes, was almost sure to win.