Against Anxiety

Vona Groarke

A cartoon rider on a horse so real
it shits and stalls and rears against the rider
it’s been saddled with in this narrative.

Who wonders, of course, if he’s been here before
but nobody, not the old-timer in the sun chair
nor the woman stock-still in her parked car,
not even the dog who stares him down,
bids him the time of day.

The horse comes not to care, one way or the other.
There will be hay or else there won’t;
either way, he’s a horse still tomorrow.

The rider knows nothing about tomorrow.
He moves on, color and storyline,
to the next bit of road and the next,
past fury, exhaustion and bafflement
none of which touch him, not in the least,
as he drags with his ears a shaft of light
from a moon he thinks is real.

I suppose that’s the thing about cartoons:
everyone sees the punchline coming
except who’s about to get punched.

Vona Groarke is author of seven collections of poetry, most recently X and Selected Poems, awarded the Pigott Prize for the best Irish book of poetry in 2016. Her book-length essay Four Sides Full was also published that year. She is a senior lecturer in poetry at the University of Manchester and one oft he 2018-2019 Fellows at the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library.
Originally published:
October 1, 2018


Rachel Cusk

The novelist on the “feminine non-state of non-being”
Merve Emre


Renaissance Women

A new book celebrates—and sells short—Shakespeare’s sisters
Catherine Nicholson

Fady Joudah

The poet on how the war in Gaza changed his work
Aria Aber

You Might Also Like


Carolie Parker


New perspectives, enduring writing. Join a conversation 200 years in the making. Subscribe to our print journal and receive four beautiful issues per year.