Near And Far

A retort, indistinguishable from the sound of branches cracking under ice from thaw, freeze and thaw. The sound is pursued by pain that bursts inward into his chest from the Duke’s back. The old man looks down at himself quizzically: his coat wasn’t red when he left. The ground throws itself at him as he slips out of the saddle.

It’s cold on the ground and the air is full of the sound of his heart pumping blood into the snow.

Time passes, or doesn’t; the horse steps away gingerly from the copper hanging in the cold air.

And the Duke clutches the snow as if he’s trying to reach the frozen grass underneath. It’s not his heart, he guesses, but angels’ wings that are in the air, and what happened to his legs? The house he was born in is close but moves farther away as he crawls to it, pulling himself forward on flabby old-man’s arms. Head spins and surf crashes; his face falls into the frigid black embrace of the snow-covered earth. The air stabs his nostrils one more time, and he thinks, “I know those boots.”

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