Joan Stepp Smith


“It is so easy to invent, by mistake, not remember what was there, what is truly remembered?” 
― B.S. Johnson, The Unfortunates

Why hail morphs to frigid opals,1 count me dumb. I slept in a moth2 inside an iceberg so long,
wasn’t I glint averse, hadn’t the moon and midnight sun already jettisoned3 their ormolu?4

Unaware [as I then was] naïve horses shimmer less gorged on frozen grass fumes—
Who hacks being bent into a blizzard, freezing at the knees, needing to graze—I lit

her cigarettes having to long suit and paraclete: mind, matter, spirit—
guru-bound in circle stints; even now, this widening exceeds worldly mosses,

spurge, leather-sweat—not gift-after-gift, not what creeps under avalanches—as if losses
hurry to arouse snow before it’s ice. No, her dress unzipped, the old bread dough

V of it opening like a parish, whose central revelation spun to look at me. Though
shivering horses collapse faster at night, at their lucifugous5 edges, not so the student

of servile harms and hands—these are gripping visions, with fingers lightly bent
around a hay fork, heaving sweet hay, into warm stalls—Mash, ammonia, wood

all for what begs in order to own one’s own horse, and if love was owning and could
ask enough of truth, until it answers . . . Blaze6 would be my palomino. In time,

he helps more palominos be supplanted. Now, now—No guffaws,
each has a stake in her immunity, as the human they carried thaws.

1Opal: The rainbow gem.

2Live moths and dead moths symbolize different things. In Hawaii, the moth is the embodiment of a person’s soul returning to say goodbye. A spiritual guide for rebirth, regeneration and renewal. Slang: associated with girls. In Gaelic, moth, literally means, good girl, and is also British slang for prostitute.

3  jettisoned: Used here like murderlized, a word first popularized by the Three Stooges. Later, by Calvin and Hobbs, though in that strip the spelling was always: mertilize. Why murderlize was not used here? Because: ill-fitting gear and lesser crimes were likely committed.

4 Ormolu: signifying ground or pounded gold colored allow of copper, zinc, and sometimes tin, cast into desired shapes, then often gilded onto mentalscapes for the illumination of scattered minds.

6Lucifugous: adjective: shunning the light.

6 Blaze: 1. Part of the rumble in any fire. 2. Sorrel quarter horse rescued from Rowell Ranch Glue Factory as grooming tool. A one-person-beatific-bastard of a horse attracted to weeping and slow running warm water over the hooves…

Joan Stepp Smith is a native San Franciscan. She has degrees in English and Art History from the University of California at Berkeley and London’s Sir John Cass School of Art and Design.  She is a Pushcart nominee and author of In a Pasture with Palominos and Unaccounted Mischiefs—due out next year.  Lover of horses and devotee of natural horsemanship, she provides respite care to retired performance horses at her ranch in Northern California.