On the east side below the ridge,
rich grass awash in shade,
a roan colt has strayed and now lies twisted
in three strands of rusted barbed wire.
His whinny a mere bleat as the mare
nuzzles his torn flesh.
His gangly deer legs useless and ripped
as flies feed feverishly on the blood.
He has been here for hours
and his eyes, white with panic
rheum over in the midday sun.
I know, taking the wire cutters from my belt,
watching the mare's eyes darken with trust,
that yellow salve will heal the cuts.
That water and rest by the shade of the eucalyptus
will bring him back to the world
sensible and clear
where hoofbeats drum a call to the hills
and the stallion snorts his musky warning.
He will gallop once more over plowed fields.
The mare nuzzles my hand as
I clip the bottom strands
and the colt trembling rises.
New hair will grow over the worst of it.
But looking at the mare's own scarred muzzle and torn ear
I know what will remain:
to grow content with dry tufts in the field that is his;
to know those careful limits
freedom's early scars impose.
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