My Horse Body

another early draft of a poem that’s growing out of the “Fatty Girls, Imaginary Cocks, and Vaginas Like Bookstores” workshop at Split This Rock. If you weren’t one of those horse-loving kids in the mid-70’s, you can learn more about Ruffian here.

My Horse Body

My ears, soft, tall, all movement
and knowledge
grew in first. I felt them
swiveling on my head,
attuned to sounds in all directions,
shuddering if a fly landed.

Then my tail—long, black, hairs like thin
steel cables. Then mane, and with my mane
my muscled horse neck.

A few months after, eating oats
in the form of Cheerios,
my muzzle appeared, causing me
to lower my mouth into the cereal box
feed bag. My mom could not imagine
a horse body so knew me only
as an untamed thing.

Soon my horse eyes opened
and my peripheral vision
was from that morning vast.

My body then was all awkward foal
then gangly filly slowly filling out
to glistening chestnut mare.
I would have been a three-year-old,
primed for the Derby, when I was 12,
but it was 1975.
Ruffian was dead.
I gave up racing,
more crippled by my grief
than she had been by her courage.

My horse legs came back, muscle
and tendon, at 16, when I bought
my Trek. The bike was a horse,
I was a horse, two horses racing,
a pair of horses, harnessed
by toe clips.

My horse body has always held
my strength. My horse body held
my secrets. My horse body kicked
and fought when cougars threatened,
when safe, my horse body munched apples
and rolled in the grass in the sun.

This winter I dyed my gray hair chestnut.
I’ve resumed head-butting and affectionate
neck-nipping with my big horse teeth.
If you dare, offer me a carrot, sweet hay,
oats, a bare-backed ride, hard and fast
and long and sweaty. Offer—if you think
you can handle a horse.


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