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Today's poem is by Maxine Kumin

Tails

Weekly we tried a different remedy—
mustard, cayenne pepper,
a slurry of garlic and vinegar—
and still the filly nibbled and nibbled
until by spring, when the blackflies came,

strands of horse hair strewed the paddock
mornings, as if ripped loose in combat.
All four of our broodmares
as well as kindly bachelor Jack
she bobtailed up to the dock

like those Stubbs portraits of racehorses
their tails sheared off square—
for some cosmetic ideal or
to make them run faster?
Who can believe we used to do that?

A vital appendage, the tail
arches to say come closer, swishes
to say stand back. It swats insects.
Clamped, its a protective shield.
Fanning, it cools body heat.

Old-timey advice: poplar tops.
We bought a cord of lopped-off
skinny boughs and scattered eight or ten
for nightly treats. Sometimes Id wake
to hear the hollow persistent thock

of teeth at work in the dark.
The filly transferred her passion to ribbons
of bark and bobtails grew back. In the spring
we heaved those naked ten-foot rails
into the gully. In May the grass came in.



Copyright © 2009 Maxine Kumin All rights reserved
from New Letters
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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