Divine Horsemen

By Hugh Behm-Steinberg

Death, who consumed so many heroes,

the most lavishly produced musicals,

little fluffy clouds, they were so beautiful,

they were beautiful, the most beautiful sky

on fire, the clouds would catch your eye,

until the whole future was clear, luminous

with promise; for the next several years I

remade Oklahoma as a movie, as a gift

for you, the flatness of the landscape and

the dark oilwells were a good match.


So that’s why I made Idaho, Song of Texas,

Song of Nevada, Rainbow over Texas, so that

if, in the chorus, one hears suddenly a single voice,

older and deeper, like how an old person talks,

remember a white or rose dress of delicate cloth,

the most beautiful handkerchiefs, let them turn

into clouds, let them remind you of me.


Because it’s like reading a new book, it’s so

long ago, the manners of a gentleman, a Spanish

line or two in the songs we learned to sing,

because we were always big in Mexico,

and you don’t see that anymore; you know

it’s a good picture, so don’t throw it away:

Not because it’s mine, but because it has action,

good fights and chases, a slight hint of romance,

Roy Rogers, Dale and Trigger; we see ourselves

in black and silver, old western movies

on a long white screen.


Oh words, oh vocabulary, oh baby baby baby,

sweetly shining like a star in the western night,

I wanted to stay up there with you, so I could

feel like I was a little of the air, like I was a shimmer,

a book of the ocean, that you could read in one night,

spread it out on your wall, wave it up above yourself,

tell it over again:  and oh Roy, oh Dale, darling Trigger,

beloved chance, turn into a house, turn into a bicycle,

let the bicycle make you feel like a pony,

let the house exist in an ideal symmetry, that then

opens up into tangles, which are the lines and callouses

on the palm of my hand.


Or this is my sequel, these are his hoofs, this is a frame,

it rides around your room, make a box between your hands,

here I am, in this center, it’s me, I’m in this new movie,

I play the divine horseman, I bring spectacular changes,

I love you, I’m singing a song that says nothing

the pictures themselves don’t know how to say.


Hugh Behm-Steinberg is the author of Shy Green Fields (No Tell Books) and two Dusie chapbooks, Sorcery and Good Morning!  His poems have appeared in such places as Crowd, VeRT, Volt, Spork, Cue, Slope, Aught, Fence, Swerve, dirt, ditch, Zeek and Sweet, as well as a few places with more than one syllable.  He teaches writing at California College of the Arts in San Francisco, where he edits the journal Eleven Eleven.

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