Friday, April 10, 2015

Dumb Beasts

There was mud--
but that was far from the worst of it.
Hooves sank, jerked up, sank again--
flanks heaved, nostrils flared and burned like the air itself.

There was blood--
but that was not the worst of it.
Each time a shell exploded, limbs, ears, nerves, souls came apart,
ragged, absurd, destroyed, haunted forever.
The horse tried again but was held back,
leaving knots of red flesh on the barbs of the wire.

Horses, like men, find themselves where they find themselves,
but that is still not the worst of it.
This horse, caught in the wire, a round in its ribs, frothing, struggling,
could as easily have been cantering around a track in Kentucky
or pulling up clover in an Irish field.
Great men lighting cigars in gilded rooms saw to it being otherwise.

But listen to me.
That animal has rotted to white bone, along with its rider.
Any sunrise they ached to see has long since come and gone without them.
So here I am, standing in front of the house I grew up in--
I left bloody wads of myself caught on the twists of love and hate,
hope and despair that existed here,
but that is not the worst of it, either.

The worst of it is what I brought to my own child
in my panic, and in my pain.
I hope that armistice came soon enough.
God forgive me for carrying on traditions like these on the innocent,
and God bless the dumb beasts
who live only in the moment for their simple needs
and by doing so, prove their masters fools beyond all telling.

for Mama Zen's "Dear Past, Dear Future" challenge at Real Toads



Gillena Cox said...

there is a freedom, energy and spirit coursing through this poem which gives it its magnificence

have a creative month

much love...

Sanaa Rizvi said...

Such a beautifully energetic poem...!!
Love the flow of the lines :D
Agreed with is truly supreme! :D

Mama Zen said...

This made me cry. Damn.

Kerry O'Connor said...

I am unable to read anything with graphic descriptions of animals in distress, but I commend you on your fearless approach to the subject.
I have always felt the term 'dumb animals' to be an oxymoron in any sense of the words, so your title heightens the pathos.

hedgewitch said...

Ah Shay--you never take the easy way out. This scours the heart and soul with our heritage, and instead of addressing only your own blood, you address humanity's, harming the innocent, scalding and flowing too freely for nothing, then bring it all back to where it begins--how much we can make our own the burdens of what others put on our backs. A very fated, bardic and immortal sort of feel to this that wrings out the heart.

Sioux said...

Shay--This made the tears well up. Thanks for the heartbreak this morning.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

Yes, this is a fearless poem, about the horse and about oneself. I can see the horse struggling in the wire. "Horses, like men, find themselves where they find themselves." Yes. And the closing lines about what we pass on to our children, in our pain - that hits home. But we also passed on the spirit of surviving and, eventually, rising above. A wonderful poem to read this morning. Everyone is just SMOKIN' this month. Wow.

Rommy said...

The stupidity of the past that we thoughtlessly pass on to our children and then weep when we fill understand what it is we have done. This feels like a prayer for understanding from our young ones that they may be wiser than we are.

Jennifer Wagner said...

I got chills with that last stanza. That's it, isn't it? The fear that we perpetuate our own suffered pain and dysfunction onto our children. Dang, Shay.

Cloudia said...

AMEN! Bless the beasts!

ALOHA from Honolulu,

Susan said...

Powerful powerful poem leading to "the worst of it." Powerfully. Have I said that? Mud, blood:
"So here I am, standing in front of the house I grew up in--
I left bloody wads of myself caught on the twists of love and hate,
hope and despair that existed here,
but that is not the worst of it, either."

I've long loved the song. Thank you for putting them together.

Susie Clevenger said...

Yes, I'm" with Mama Zen, this piece made me cry. So here I am, standing in front of the house I grew up in--
I left bloody wads of myself caught on the twists of love and hate" Your words brought me back to the last time I stood on the land I grew up in. It was one of the most devastatingly emotional times I have ever had.

Ella said...

This spirited poem haunts, as it should~

grapeling said...

'we've always done it this way'.

damn. ~

Rosemary Nissen-Wade said...

Puts me in mind if the movie, War Horse. Devastating whether reality or metaphor ... or both.

Olivia Jade said...

The last stanza hits hard. Incredible writing!

God bless the dumb beasts, indeed.

Sara said...

Whoa Nelly...this one packs a punch. The description is so vivid! I love how you create images in my mind with your words and then take them someplace entirely different, while offering up a knock-out message.

my heart's love songs said...

oh! this is too sad! too vivid! too close to reality!