Joan Colby

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The Easter Colt 

Still cold that year, when Lent
comes early buttoning ashes to the foreheadsArtwork by Gene McCormick
of the faithful. Horses ice-stalled,
the stone barn sieving warmth from what sunlight
penetrates the old sash windows.
Good Friday brings more snow enough to disguise
the sheets of peril. The black mare is waxing
like the scythe of moon, Saturday night,
Holy Saturday, stations of the cross like stanchions
embracing the Holsteins, holding them fast
for the tug at the teat and spurt
into the shining pails. The mare goes down
laboring in the heaped straw. The foal,
one tiny hoof hooked on the pelvic bone,
Jill flirt. On my belly, reaching I retract it
and with a push the glistening body
slides in its caul like a mummy.
The glassine sack ripped and there’s breath,
there’s eyes, a dark colt, unmarked.
He struggles up, wide-spread as a sawhorse.
The navel stump dipped in iodine, my hands
a sick poison-yellow. Ten minutes past
the witching hour. Easter Sunday.
Something is born
to find its nourishing source,
its balance, its singular edition.
The mare gets to her feet. She knows
her duty. She licks the colt’s
upturned face. The placenta dangling
snakelike beneath her blood-soaked tail
gives way and flaps out heavily,
a large soft heart
that the dogs seize and devour.


Snake Salvation

From the National Geographic Channel

Mark 16: 17-18 

Serpent was the word used.
Diamondback was what he hoisted
as he’d so often done, to praise
the power of the Holy Ghost.

The Lord loves those who tempt fateArtwork by Gene McCormick
as Satan tempted him in the desert.
He holds the snake up like an idol
to be denounced, the false split-tongue

that insinuates man came from the sea,
a legless creature like this one
in his rough grasp. The voices ring
in tongues of glory. He seeks them in

old foundations braided together
as winter rages. In his house the cages
keep seventy-four readied for the service
he must perform. He has been bitten

and survived. This time he lifts
it like the Eucharist. The triangle
of head swings to set its fangs
deep in his wrist.  Preacher Coot

goes home and lies abed
awaiting God’s salvation that arrives
in the guise of paramedics which he fails
to recognize, refusing anti-venom,
swelling like The Word made flesh.


Joan Colby has published widely in journals such as Poetry, Atlanta Review, South Dakota Review, The Spoon River Poetry Review, New York Quarterly, the new renaissance, Grand Street, Epoch, and Prairie Schooner.Awards include two Illinois Arts Council Literary Awards, Rhino Poetry Award, the new renaissance Award for Poetry, and an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Literature. She was a finalist in the GSU Poetry Contest (2007), Nimrod International Pablo Neruda Prize (2009, 2012), and received honorable mentions in the North American Review's James Hearst Poetry Contest (2008, 2010). She is the editor of Illinois Racing News and lives on a small horse farm in Northern Illinois. She has published 10 books including The Lonely Hearts Killers, The Atrocity Book and her newest book from Future Cycle Press—“Dead Horses.” FutureCycle will also publish “Selected Poems” in 2013.