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Thursday, May 10, 2018


by Pamela Stewart

CAMERON, Ariz. -- Off a northern Arizona highway surrounded by pastel-colored desert is one of the starkest examples of drought's grip on the American Southwest: Nearly 200 dead horses surrounded by cracked earth, swirling dust and a ribbon of water that couldn't quench their thirst. Flesh exposed and in various stages of decomposition, the carcasses form a circle around a dry watering hole sunken in the landscape … According to the Navajo Nation, 191 horses died of natural causes. "These animals were searching for water to stay alive. In the process, they unfortunately burrowed themselves into the mud and couldn't escape because they were so weak," Navajo Nation Vice President Jonathan Nez said in a statement Thursday. A grim photo posted by the Navajo Nation shows the horses, many of them in mud up to their thighs and even their necks. —CBS/AP, May 6, 2018

Each day they are deepened by dust
soon shrunk to no color.

Once the horses slept standing up.

Oh, the stars say, another circle of dead horses!
Another stillness of horses

that didn’t fall in war with manes
unbraided by fire.

These horses, nine of them, drowned
in cages of dust—oracular drought—
no suction of damp, nothing left
to sip for the blowfly.

Only a hand lifted by the mind’s eye
could smooth a neck, lift towards
the still cloudless sky
to be caught between rage and blessing.

A circle of wild dead horses—chapter one.

Pamela (Jody) Stewart is the author of 6 full-length volumes of poems and a number of chapbooks, the most recent being Just Visiting (Grey Suit Editions, London, 2014). She lives on a farm in western Massachusetts.