Sad Little Breathing Machine

Matthea Harvey

For whatever reason, this collection didn’t strike me as much as Modern Life did. But there were poems I liked.

The Crowds Cheered as Gloom Galloped Away

Everyone was happier. But where did the sadness go? People wanted to know. They didn’t want it collecting in their elbows or knees then popping up later. The girl who thought of the ponies made a lot of money. Now a month’s supply of pills came in a hard blue case with a handle. You opened it & found the usual vial plus six tiny ponies of assorted shapes & sizes, softly breathing in the Styrofoam. Often they had to be pried out & would wobble a little when first put on the ground. In the beginning the children tried to play with them, but the sharp hooves nicked their fingers & the ponies refused to jump over pencil hurdles. The children stopped feeding them sugarwater & the ponies were left to break their legs on the gardens’ gravel paths or drown in the gutters. On the first day of the month, rats gathered on doorsteps & spat out only the bitter manes. Many a pony’s last sight was a bounding squirrel with its tail hovering over its head like a halo. Behind the movie theatre the hardier ponies gathered in packs amongst the cigarette butts, getting their hooves stuck in wads of gum. They lined the hills at funerals, huddled under folding chairs at weddings. It became a matter of pride if one of your ponies proved unusually sturdy. People would smile & say, “This would have been an awful month for me,” pointing to the glossy palomino trotting energetically around their ankles. Eventually, the ponies were no longer needed. People had learned to imagine their sadness trotting away, & when they wanted something more tangible, they could always go to the racetrack & study the larger horses’ faces. Gloom, #341, with those big black eyes, was almost sure to win.

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