The Symptom Pool

Even in death a herd animal
doesn't like to go it alone
so around and around
the field the dead horse goes
until there are two, three,
four to travel together.
Enter a certain weather.
Fall of failing and of failing
to see it through. Enter
birds starting up unmercifully
in the dark and the nonstop
whirring of the little machine
you call heart. Enter
the copycat hallway,
the same caliber loaded
grandfather's gun, the ball
bearings and black backpacks
exploding in the sun. Enter
this season's dresses
fanning out in mermaid tails
so all the girls' legs look
pegged on below the knee.
Enter legs pegged on below
the knee, the bewildered
girlfriend, the shutdown capital,
the sweet stench of uneaten hay.

Lisa Olstein is the author of three books of poetry: Radio Crackling, Radio Gone, winner of the Hayden Carruth Award; Lost Alphabet, a Library Journal best book of the year; and Little Stranger, a Lannan Literary Selection. Her work has appeared in many journals and anthologies, including The Nation, American Letters & Commentary, and New Voices. She is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize and fellowships from the Sustainable Arts Foundation, Massachusetts Cultural Council, and Centrum. She is a member of the poetry faculty at the University of Texas at Austin.