Saturday book feature — Horse Not Zebra — Eric Nelson

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

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5 responses to “Saturday book feature — Horse Not Zebra — Eric Nelson”

  1. satyam rastogi Avatar

    Beautiful post

  2. mfrhettich Avatar

    Beautiful poem, excellent book.

  3. Le Avatar

    Wonderfully moving.

  4. richardsund Avatar

    Having been an ER Psych RN for 30 years, I know very well what Residents learn :” When you hear hoofbeats, think horse first and not zebra ” A beautiful poem and image.

  5. richardsund Avatar

    Forgive if my Post is already done.This will be an edited version. My brother has lived on Mount Desert Island in Southwest Harbor nearly 30 years. I have stayed up and down coastal Maine ,because MDI is mid- coast – 4 hours north east of the State Line. A beautiful poem about a very painful tragedy. Mainers rarely rarely kill one another. Some kind of innocence is gone.

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