Monday, August 29, 2011

A literary sort of day

Mother wanted me to put up one of her favorite poems on here. She gave me some cookies, so I said OK.

It is a circle of life sort of poem, if there are any sensitive sorts out there.

Names of Horses


All winter your brute shoulders strained against collars, padding 
and steerhide over the ash hames, to haul 
sledges of cordwood for drying through spring and summer, 
for the Glenwood stove next winter, and for the simmering range.

In April you pulled cartloads of manure to spread on the fields, 
dark manure of Holsteins, and knobs of your own clustered with oats.
All summer you mowed the grass in meadow and hayfield, the mowing machine 
clacketing beside you, while the sun walked high in the morning;

and after noon's heat, you pulled a clawed rake through the same acres, 
gathering stacks, and dragged the wagon from stack to stack, 
and the built hayrack back, uphill to the chaffy barn, 
three loads of hay a day from standing grass in the morning. 

Sundays you trotted the two miles to church with the light load 
a leather quartertop buggy, and grazed in the sound of hymns. 
Generation on generation, your neck rubbed the window sill 
of the stall, smoothing the wood as the sea smooths glass.

When you were old and lame, when your shoulders hurt bending to graze,
one October the man, who fed you and kept you, and harnessed you every morning,
led you through corn stubble to sandy ground above Eagle Pond,
and dug a hole beside you where you stood shuddering in your skin,

and lay the shotgun's muzzle in the boneless hollow behind your ear,
and fired the slug into your brain, and felled you into your grave, 
shoveling sand to cover you, setting goldenrod upright above you,
where by next summer a dent in the ground made your monument.

For a hundred and fifty years, in the pasture of dead horses,
roots of pine trees pushed through the pale curves of your ribs,
yellow blossoms flourished above you in autumn, and in winter
frost heaved your bones in the ground - old toilers, soil makers:

O Roger, Mackerel, Riley, Ned, Nellie, Chester, Lady Ghost.

Bif back in:  I have my own opinion of this poem. I was raised on a large ranch with hundreds of other horses. I have seen horses shot, and I have seen the vet make them sleep. I have seen them sicken and then die, with no one to care for them. I think these horses worked hard and the humans worked hard, and both cared for the other, and it is all we could ask.

I don't have to work at all, but I am special. 
Or Mother's special. I hear they have a special automobile for that. Maybe she'll get one. Then she can fill it with cookies!!


  1. I just barely remember the last team of workhorses to inhabit our barn.

    Grandpa kept them around on the premise that they could pull a log out of the woods or handle a stone boat better than any tractor could. That may be right, but I'm told they never did a lick's work from the early 1950's when tractors fully took over our farm until their deaths in 1974. Their harnesses still hang on hand whittled posts in the barn up home.

  2. Oh Hi! Boyfriend. I believe we may live in the same area! I too shop at Tack Trunk (they have a sale going on right now) and have had visits from Doc.McNabb a time or two!

    Small world eh?

  3. This is a wonderful poem. Thank you for sharing it.

  4. Touching poem of work partners.


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