Friday, April 11, 2008


horse dreams, originally uploaded by wizmo.

A few years ago I stumbled upon a poem that stopped me in my tracks. I found it online in the Missouri Review archive, though I cannot now remember how I ended up there. Tomorrow Jude Nutter will read here as the poetry winner of the MR's Jeffrey E. Smith Editors' Prize. And here is the poem that made me a fan:


Still, the horses are beautiful and their grace keeps me occupied.
—Linda Hogan

We pass them being wheedled
and cajoled around small corrals, a confetti
of spit across each wide breast and the sweat
between their legs worried up into foam.
Their hooves flash in the dirt like polished bells.
We pass them as they sleep, standing up,
among the dandelions and tasseled grasses
gone to seed. They enter our lives
like fragments of Eden: the place that's always been
our most difficult, elaborate dream; and once seen—
even from a freeway when you're doing sixty,
aware of your own peril—it's an effort of will
to take your eyes from a horse
in a field. Grace is like that. No other animal

occupies its skin so precisely, or walks forward
so carefully, as if pushing through great hauls
of dark water, chest deep in a stiff current.
I don't believe we are meant to think about death,

even on those evenings
when a thin mist rides on the fields and their hooves
waver beneath them like votive flames. A horse

becomes its own myth and religion: out from the dark
machinery of its body something better,
and more beautiful, is always about to begin;
and if you ever need proof that it's good
to have a physical body, touching
a horse in this life is the closest you will get to it.
To catch grace off guard: a lone horse
dozing in a field with the long reach of its neck
presented to the world, its thick
bottom lip fallen away from the fence of its teeth
and there, beguiling as god's empty pocket,
pale skin of the inner mouth. Before you die look
into the eyes of a horse at least once
and discover how each is an immense, empty room
lit by a single candle. The emptiness of waiting.
Because if the gods ever come down to walk among us,
this is where they'll live. And so when a horse,
seeing nothing about us it can recognize, lowers
its soft, deep mouth to the grass, and when that grass,
appearing wet in the sunlight, rises to greet it,
as if the lips of the dead were puckered skyward
for its kiss, it should be no surprise. How can we not
love an animal that spends so much of its life
with its mouth so close to the dirt. That they take,
with such tenderness, the mints
and the carrots we offer—as if the world

were ours to give—is the miracle; that they let us
slip on the sky-blue halter and lead them
through the cool of the evening.


Anonymous said...


We go to Florida for my grandmother's funeral.

jenni said...

Beautiful - I can see why you're a fan.