In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Fresh Horses
  • Richard Wagamese (bio)

Out of alleys rumpled kings emerge rolling cigarettes cadged from butts one-handed and hitching up their pants with the other wheezing, gasping, coughing spilling onto the street on a morning gray as campfire smoke—the remnants of last night or yesterday slung on their lips in drool or a snarl, shaking like a dog shitting razor blades for another hit, another fix. A drink, an eye-opener is how they call it

one by one the assemblage of pain emerges from the holes and shadows where they’ve hunkered in or hunkered down and the street becomes a loose parade marching back and forth between a smoke and the feral early-morning dealers slinging someone else’s product for enough to start the trip themselves wheelmen push their carts along behind the dumpster divers scratching for scraps you’ll eat anything when you’re starved enough you can even nudge the rats aside if there’s enough for both of you broken women with wild eyes and skimpy dresses swiped off Army & Navy racks slink in and ply what remains of their charm and wiles for a taste, a hit, a drag, a smile even if it might mean twenty dollars later when everyone’s looped and stranger things have happened than a furious hump in the alley between friends and a good ten rock passersby have learned to walk the line that exists two feet away from the edge of the curb where you can’t be grabbed or sprung upon [End Page 138]

or where it takes a good determined lurch to reach you so that there’s an open lane of concrete between worlds like a land claim where they’ve learned to stick to their side of the deal

there’s cowboys and Indians, space cadets and hippies sidewalk commandos and bikers without bikes and someone’s college sweetheart holding hands with a rancher’s son who dreams of horses out beyond the derricks of Alberta grazing with only the wind for company and the sun shining down upon it all resplendent as memories when they vanish in the wash of this life, the tide of it beyond all knowing

he dreams of horses the roll of them beneath his butt and thighs and the land swept by in the push and punch of hooves and snorted breath across the hardpan prairie and how it feels sometimes to run them hard as far as they can go before climbing on a fresh one and kicking it to a gallop that pulls the foothills closer

“We need fresh horses,” he mumbles to her but she can only squeeze his hand and squint into the near distance On a morning hard as stone [End Page 139]

Richard Wagamese

Richard Wagamese is Ojibway from the Sturgeon Clan. After a youth spent in foster homes and with a family as an adoptee, he reestablished connection with his people and began a lengthy career as a newspaper and electronic journalist. His novels include Keeper’n Me (1994), A Quality of Light (1997), Dream Wheels (2006), Ragged Company (2009), The Next Sure Thing (2011), and Indian Horse (2012). He has published two autobiographical works, For Joshua: An Ojibway Father Teaches His Son (2003) and One Native Life (2009); a collection of short fiction, One Story One Song (2011); and a book of poetry, Runaway Dreams (2011). The recipient of national writing awards and honorary degrees, he lives near Kamloops, British Columbia.