Horse Not Zebra
When med students are learning
how to diagnose symptoms, they’re told
think horse, not zebra—the common, not the exotic.
Which is good advice even if you’re not a doctor.
Like when your phone rings at 3:00 in the morning,
think wrong number, not who died?
Or if your love is over an hour late
for dinner and hasn’t called to explain, think
gridlock, not head-on; dead zone, not dead.
When the guy in the truck doesn’t slow down
much less stop when you step into the crosswalk,
think distracted, not son-of-a-bitch. Recall the time
your mind was still at work, how shocked you were
to see in your rear-view a woman in the crosswalk
flipping you off with both hands.
And if you’re steaming in a mile long back-up
because protesters have blocked the bridge again,
don’t think where are the cops
when you need them, think how,
when popping sounds wake you at night,
you think firecracker, not gun.
by Eric Nelson from Horse Not Zebra (Terrapin Books 2022)
Cover art by Laura Berendson Hughes
Cover design by Diane Lockward
Winner of the Eric Hoffer Award for Cover Art