Today's poem is by David Baker

After Rain


You have to turn your back to the animals.
              In theory it's better for them than shoes.
You have to hold them one leg at a time
              pinched with your legs to pick clean beneath each
hoof the sawdust, straw, mud-pack, pebbles, dung.
              The old ones stand patient while the young may
stomp the hard barn floor to tell you to quit
              or nod their long necks or quiver or huff.


Rain has turned them skittish, the rain-flung leaves,
              whatever flies or crawls from a cold tree.
The scrape of your moon-crescent blade, as you
              carve each hoof hard as plastic or soft wood
down to the white heart, makes them want to grow
              wings, makes them want to fly or die or run.
You have to talk them down. Easy, you say
              in your own wind, soothing, easy now, whoa.


But it's the long, continuous sighing
              breath of the file that stills them, for they know
you are through. You round the last edges down
              and smooth the hard breaks, as one by one they trot
through the tack room door, muscle, mane, shadow,
              turning their backs to you. Now the sun is out.
Barn swallows brighten the loft. You watch them
              break into flight, hoofprints filling with rain.

from Changeable Thunder
The University of Arkansas Press

Copyright © 2001 David Baker All rights reserved
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission


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