Pony Man

By Sharon Kennedy-Nolle

Stok La, Ladakh

Who’s pissed because I’ve kept him waiting at the Air Force well.
The pony and her Toru hide behind;
buck up their hooves, white as clamshells.

Who, cross, comes at me,
wool Tartar robe
in mauve flare.
Mohammad Sharif, stuck
with a tackle box of teeth
and lures catching on,
Dhule, dhule, duc, duc

Hell-bent grubber of the telltale wind,
What can he tell me?

Paper-dolled me, out of my element, alone
in this lunar land,
all the elements chucked at my trekking feet:
Rock, rain, dust, snows.

I mumble the excuses I knew as a child.
Speaking for myself is only to myself.

No path, no obvious direction
through this land of La, land of the Passes,
Who trudges me toward a blur that beckons,

Closer, a horse.
Down, why? Dead. Did he fight it?

I stare hard for answers
that smell doesn’t tell.
The horse’s lumpy head still sweating
its quirks of blood at noon.
Crows maraud the sweet entrails.

Whose sheepdog bounds down to fetch the heart
of the matter. Buzzards adorn
a terrible jewelry.

If only the bones
would come through,
and death would exit its clear-cut truth.

With brows bearing the brunt of bark and manure,
Who, cackling, picks up a club,
and recoil becomes recall:

Was it a seven, wood driver
that always cut straight down the fairway?
On distant, mannered lawns,
it was always a reach.
We’d never play through the course.
You’d yell, and I’d kill the ball.

Who is then, pony man, my father come again?

I’m ashamed to ask him,
whose eyes steer clear.

Must make Stok before dusk.
It’s always a gristle slice that marks the pass.
Then freckled scree and ibex into the snows.

Whose face is totemic, pitted as a wharf pier.

Who pitches a tent from parachute and sharp pole.

Speaks just once, asking for a pair of socks,
and gets my goat.
Squatting on the rice sack,
over the bracketing hiss of Sterno.

Who gets no dinner, pinching in cold spice, and I,
I get to be the cat’s pajamas, right, right?