Allie Hoback

2021, Poetry

LA JARA: A DESERT PASTORAL

I herd sheep with Mercury’s mother
in the morning & shovel shit
in the evening. I want to tell her

about the time I snuck out
at seventeen, drove up Roanoke
Mountain to walk the only trail

I knew. I took baby steps, stared
at my feet until I couldn’t stand
to make myself move anymore.

She tells me how she bottle fed
three lambs through winter, how one lost
its back legs to frostbite & Mercury

put it down—slit its throat or snapped
its neck or drove half an hour
on a desert road & found a rock to bash

its skull—I don’t know how he did it.
I want to tell her Mercury is the kind
of man I think about when the A/C

is broken. I sweat & dream of dusty
highways & busted taillights,
the kind of man who brands

an Appaloosa on its side before riding it.
Someone I’d let rough me up inside,
sweat dripping from my back as I watch

the smoke roll from the burn & bow
my head like an animal sways,
grits its teeth & takes it.


Allie Hoback is an MFA candidate in poetry at Syracuse University. She earned a BA in English from Virginia Commonwealth University, where she was a literary intern and copy editor for Blackbird. She has held various editorial positions for Salt Hill Journal. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in HobartHAD (Hobart After Dark), and New Ohio Review.