Patricia Clark is the author of Self-Portrait with a Million Dollars, her sixth book of poems, and three chapbooks. She has work just out (or forthcoming) in Plume, The Southern Review, North American Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Cimarron Review, Pedestal, Quartet, and Innisfree Poetry Journal. Her poem “Astronomy: ‘In Perfect Silence’” was chosen to go to the moon as part of the Lunar Codex on a NASA Space X flight in fall 2024.
--for Nathan, Joel, and Alison
On a rooftop downtown at the edge
of the building where they’ve planted succulents
stands a horse blackened by fire
called Char by its maker Deborah Butterfield.
The artist scoured a smoky ravaged forest
in California, picking up branches, limbs,
burnt saplings, then brought these to her studio
where she fashioned them into the shape of a horse.
During the process, taking weeks, Butterfield often dreams
of horses. This one grazing in a meadow
where red-tipped grass waved against its belly, seeds
catching in its long tail. Horse has become the artist’s
mirror self, a dream figure made manifest.
After the studio, a foundry, a way to cast
wood into metal, finally pouring
bronze for the final sculpture. The workers made marks
in metal to resemble wood, adding a patina black
as night sky. Char looks east into clouds
above our city, ignoring for past weeks
the haze from Canada wildfires, not pricking
its ears in terror or flipping its tail.
Char is more skeleton than mass, negative space
allowing us to glimpse what’s been ruined and where
we stand, on the edge, barely able to breathe.