Life After, by Felicia Martinez

When you die
regret becomes permanent
so imagine my surprise when I
saw the stallions there
running as if forever 
were made of switchgrass
and clover
as if eternity 
were grounded in the quartz and silica 
of hoof-marked sands
destined to dance 
with sweat-sweetened necks 
and nudging noses

I toss soft reins 
across my own 
bare arms
and suddenly my limbs are
neither ash nor wind-bound (as I had planned)
but powerful
pasterns short and long
all the way to the coffin bone

and I laugh to think hooves are called that
these things of glory
and suddenly I toss my head
and my place is with the herd
that’s all it takes
so undeserved
and how I run
I run my joy
my limbs 
of thunder
their booming grace
like new stars must hear when they are born
like ocean currents that shudder leviathan’s song
in echoes of prehistory
in boundless 
reasonless hearts

I do not deserve you
how can I
can any of us 
who could not live gently
who forgot the pain of the desert 
the bright river rock
those tender needs
tender as the journeys of the salmon
silvery despite us
until they lost their way because 
we couldn’t accept that our lives were not the most precious
or necessary
or brilliant
and we would not stop

as I run 
in wonder
towards the bounteous sun 
my tangling mane
taut with the strain of this glorious herd 
who I will race beside
my heart is breaking
could have been this sweet too.

I did not pray in life.
I do now.
I ask for forgiveness
in this paradise
this life after Earth
and yes, oh yes
when you die
regret becomes permanent.

Felicia Martinez is a writer and educator born and raised in eastern New Mexico. Her deep love of non-traditional story structures and points of view in poetry and fiction have inspired her work found in Star*Line, Mermaids Monthly, Space & Time Magazine, and Lovecraftian Microfiction Vol 6. She holds both an M.A. and Ph.D in English from Stanford University and is presently a liberal arts professor in the San Francisco Bay Area. When she’s not leading seminar discussions with her curious undergrads, she can be found writing under the redwood trees, where she shares a home with her partner and a cat named Bat. She tweets as @feliciafm.

Return to Issue 16 | Support The Deadlands

Scroll to Top
Scroll to Top