By Gabriella Brand
“Shelter” was inspired by Assateague Island National Seashore.
At night we hear them.
Not a stampede, exactly, but a rush of hooves.
Determined, breathy, equine. Loud.
Noisy enough to jolt our slumber.
The grandson, a city child, not yet nine years old, squeezes my hand and whispers,
Will they eat the tent?
No, I say, explaining that the wild horses don’t care for the taste of 70 denier nylon.
We talk about the two roans we saw today, off in the dunes.
They were swatting flies with their tails and quibbling over the sparse grass.
Now we lie in the dark and listen to the waves rolling against the shore, slapping, retreating, rolling again.
Where do the ponies sleep? the grandson asks.
For this I have no answer. Maybe the rangers know.
The wind picks up, flutters the guy-lines of the tent, flaps our towels against the post.
The smell of fresh dung rides the island breeze.
The boy moves his sleeping bag closer to mine.
We lie awake for a little while, the two of us alone on this sliver of sand,
this shelter for the untamed,
splintered between ocean and dust.
Gabriella Brand’s short stories, poems, and non-fiction have appeared in Room Magazine, Poetry Breakfast, The Blue Line, StepAway, The Christian Science Monitor and in many anthologies. One of her poems was featured in the latest anthology called District Lines from the Washington,D.C. bookstore Politics and Prose. Gabriella divides her time between Connecticut, where she teaches foreign languages, and The Eastern Townships of Quebec, where she hikes and canoes. She has done several solo walking treks, including the 1500 kilometer path called the 88 Temples of Shikoku, Japan as well as the Camino de Santiago. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee. Visit her website, gabriellabrand.net