by Tricia Knoll
My mother never met a horse she liked,
never a soft touch to ear or blow
in the nose kind of like. She didn’t mind
having her picture taken next to a horse
if a strong man held the reins.
She wore her blue-and-white striped
shirt with pearl-snap buttons
as a foil and twin to my father’s cowboy.
She smiled for a photo, a demure lift of lip
switched on, down pat for a sorority
He led his kids’ light cavalry
through Rocky Mountain streams
while she rested at the dude ranch,
painting cherry nails,
sunbathing in coconut oil until four,
meeting her dusty family
at the barn, pretender westerner.
After sixty years, the shirt’s cuffs are frayed,
grime at the seams, around the collar.
I’ve used it for half that time gardening,
the pearly-white snaps clicking me in.
Once a time bomb in my closet, a reminder
it’s my mother’s subtle frowns
beyond the camera lens. I was no pretender,
the horse-crazy girl loving every horse
I ever smelled or touched.
After all these years, I accept that shirt fits me
as it once fit her, snug at the breast,
firm at the wrist, dirtier with the years
I saved it. Tick. Tick.