for Townes van Zandt

In Jack Yeats' painting Grief, one horse,
proud scribble of white, edges toward the receding
margin. The carted bier of a warrior
pushes itself, somewhere behind
their uneven line,
knowing that such horses as these
might abandon him, alone on this canvas,
absent remorse.

Yeats' blue soldiers shove ahead, bending backward
in their haste.
The surviving marshal, tattered
Napoleon, lifts his arm, his saber, and one
pitted eye toward the dry yellow smoke
drifting along the surface
of canvas—a breathless maritime
pilgrim contemplating
the far skin of water.

In a country this large, only the borders
will keep you alive.
The roan horse of Freedom
dissolves into unbounded landscape,
pale pieces of river and sky
opening as bloodless gaps
in her flesh. The urgent hooves
spin thick clumps of mud,
hind legs
a washed blur of green weed.

          Freedom is not the limning artist.
          Grief is not this disheveling horse.