Author | Cal Freeman
It’s a wonder more of us
don’t lose ourselves to panic,
sidestepping from the rail,
blue veins pulsing in the sclera.
The uncanny feeling gloms
against the tongue like mud
on a hoof wall or burs to a hank
of mane. So many things
we worry over without speaking,
and speech is such poor salve anyway,
like neatsfoot oil in the eye.
How dusty the double harness,
how dull its brass, I thought,
blacking alcohol wipes then wadding
and throwing them toward
the grey Brute barrel, shining
equipment in the shared
solitude of that village, the smell
of sawdust and hardened dirt
in winter. If our instruments
suggest both violence and restraint,
this becomes a sort of ethic,
the hay rake’s gleaming teeth,
the crops and whips leaned
everywhere against the walls,
the hay hook hanging from a nail.
I didn’t bring up her black eye
that winter night we ate cabbage soup
together. It is best to move
predictably in the shadow
of beasts. Part of the business
is to bruise and fall, to get right
back on the horse, but no,
that wasn’t where she had been
yesterday, not out riding in the barn
or feeding colts in the front pasture;
she had not been hoof-punched.
I didn’t mention the old man.
I still thought God was myopic
in his concern for us, so I prayed—
for her, for her dressage horses,
for the golden labs that trailed us
and nipped at fetlocks to not get kicked
to death. Cross-tied in the aisle, now,
a stallion stands in bell boots, blinders,
and a thin martingale, bitted
with both snaffle and curb,
four reins for the evening lesson.
About the Author | Cal Freenman was born and raised in Detroit, MI. He is the author of the books Brother Of Leaving (Marick Press) and Fight Songs (Eyewear Publishing, London). His writing has appeared in many journals including New Orleans Review, Passages North, The Journal, Commonweal, Drunken Boat, and The Poetry Review. He is a recipient of The Devine Poetry Fellowship (judged by Terrance Hayes); he has also been nominated for multiple Pushcart Prizes in both poetry and creative nonfiction. He regularly reviews collections of poetry for the radio program, Stateside, on Michigan Public Radio. He currently lives in Dearborn, MI and teaches at Oakland University.