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  • Mary Ellen Swee

Burial Stones

Ironman flew

over a bridge

with stilts for legs

helmet like an eagle’s beak

piercing the horizon.

Streaking past graves

ancient as elements

but not so quick

that he missed burial stones

long charcoal tongues

lapping at the air

beating his face, his arms

the tight sinews of his legs.

On the bike

his gold event

the iron man’s spine

its concave bend

was hostile to hangers-on.

But after the race

he hurried home

to teach the boy

who could not sit

how to ride a horse.

In the barn

wood boards

peel with paint

rattle in the wind

a sandy floor

shifts its shape.

The sway of lights

shuffles their shadows like cards

a dark horse

almost trotting

his riding boy

and a man made from iron

who raced from another land

to lift the boy up

to drape his frame

over a gelding’s back.

On one side of the horse

the boy’s head dangles

on the other

his legs swing

toes pointing down.

It is his middle

that weighs

on the creature’s back.

Outside the arena

an explosion of air

crashes into

a flash of light.

The sky opens

rain beats

on a metal roof

and the boy stiffens.

His horse startles.

Another streak

across the atmosphere

and doubts



flood into the arena.

The boy cannot sit

on his horse.

He cannot ride.

But the steely hands

of an ironman

the metal of his arms

guide the boy

and his horse

in a victory loop

past burial stones

lapping at the air

like charcoal tongues.

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