Today's poem is by Lisa Lewis


The neck’s crest bridges to the pricked ears.
The ears flick back when the neck rises.
I’ve read the loose-ring snaffle doubles
The hands’ gestures to the horse’s tongue:
Gloves mute their randomness, uncontrolled
Twitches of the fingers, blood’s pulse.
I bought lilac nylon, suede-palmed to stick
To reins’ leather slick with mare’s sweat.
It lathers between her thighs on hot days,
Like today, as the video shows at home
In air-conditioning while I watch myself,
And her, working to learn. My technique’s
Flaws bewilder us both: the ears flick back
When the neck rises. The back hollows,
The hocks drive out behind, the lumbosacral
Joint drops forward flexion, and the touch
Of my legs to her barrel offends, as the ears
Tell, and the neck, which, when correct,
Arches along the crest’s length, the thick mane
Loose to the left, lifting in stride, bent
Like the tall grass through which a bull snake
Roiled, once, at the mare’s feet, escaping
The wellhouse shade where last spring it shed
Skin. Neither of us flinched. We’re bold
From weeks of training’s concentration,
So I think back years, to lessons, horse shows,
Abandoned hopes, my belief I lacked
The talent, and know, now, decades late,
It was all wrong, including evaluation
Of error, and my life on top of bad riding
And worse guessing: I can’t say I should’ve
Known but could’ve, since now, middle-aged,
Daily saddling the mare bought cheap
To relive old passions, ambitions, in secret
Dreams, I have gone on—gone and done it.
Sometimes, right. Her stiff side: right,
Meaning she is loath to stretch her left
But will, urged, considered, across the mowed
Bermuda pasture, mosquitoes choiring to feed,
Wood bees’ stumbling feints, red dust, red mud,
Shoulder-in, leg yield, half-pass, rudiments
Of flying change, and my nights reading
And staring myself to sleep with remote control,
Slow mo, stop action, checking suspension
At the trot, why does she flirt her jaw, why fling
White lather, is the neck soft, or stiff, and which
Is wrong? Which goes round? Do I dare claim
We’ve done it right? Now that winning doesn’t
Matter except alone, solitary ethic of pace,
Straddle, and afternoon light? I claim it
By the moment, where it lives. One night I read,
I must feel where each leg steps, not looking,
And next day did. Cantering, slow, hooves
Clocking spokes of a wheel. One night I read,
When you think you should take, give. Next
Day did: poured from suede palm, shoulder,
Sunburned, curled fingers, elbow’s rusty hinge,
And the neck, chestnut, wet with honest rain,
Bowed to the bit, seeking touch through slight
Tension, chewing down air to meet metal
I could hold before her, floating: I won’t betray
My joy when, between my calves, sides swelled,
And beneath my seat, back bounded like a doe,
Or ocean’s wave, or love, of self, of rightness,
Balance, motion, everything. I’d say the world
Should’ve been there when I promised her that
Inch of space I’d plundered years and in obliging
Heart she returned the favor and gifted
Like a spring from earth’s center: I’d say it
But the world was there, stretching snakeskin,
Bridging mare’s footfalls everywhere, me
Mounted midst black-eyed susans, Indian
Paintbrush, one horsepower, dirt road west
Where pickups blurred, speeding, oblivious, wrong
As I’d been minutes before, and overhead both
Hawk and great blue heron, united in sky,
Gazing down, away, sailing like the sun
On high, and in my hands the clink of snaffle
Speaking back, soft, now, tongue, metal, forge
The rest of our lives worthwhile, soft, now, coupled.

Copyright © 2011 Lisa Lewis All rights reserved
from Burned House with Swimming Pool
Dream Horse Press
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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