Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Horses



I inherited my bedroom from my brothers, boys of another time, so tall and high

That stern gods peered down from their crew-cut hair.



On the wall,

George Washington kept crossing the Delaware with his men,

Like the Last Supper aboard a little military boat.

If I threw a coin,

It would turn to a star,

Then a bird;

It would drop enough feathers to make a fine hat--

I would board a locomotive train to St. Louis,

And visit 1904,

The first girl to do so

From here.



When I closed my eyes,

I saw the canopy bed I'd seen in the Hudson's catalog,

And armies of stuffed animals in rows;

They would say they had never heard of George Washington,

Or the British,

Or boys,

Or the ghost in the basement

That only I seemed to know was there.



My room was never mine--

Cleaned within an inch of its life every couple days at my mother's unhappy hands,

And by (her forbidding, joyless) god, it had better stay that way.

I would take out my puppets my grandmother had made for me

--Barn Boy and Pretty Horse Puppet--

And they would say,

It is a fine day

Full of apples and hay.



Oh, mother, when you stood in my doorway like bad news on the way,

Looking at small me on my Indian blanket bed with horses on my hands,

Was it because you heard the hoof beats

Of us running away across the plains

To an invitation-only joy

That only I could see?

_______

Thank you to Rene for reminding me

21 comments:

Brian Miller said...

ride hard across that plain...brought the wood for the bon fire...think we can get it high enough to kiss the sky?

Lulú said...

The unhappy hands and the part about looking down at little me...I get it, Chica. This one hit home a little. Muy bien, amiguita...now stop ignoring my blog! I know you can get in. ;)

Lynn said...

The imagination of a young girl - I got lost in your poem. Just lovely.

Eric Alder said...

They were right: This IS a fine day, full of apples and hay... because I read your words today.

ellen abbott said...

so sad that unhappy people feel the need to press it on others.

TALON said...

This was interesting, Shay. I grew up with two older brothers and have to confess that I found their toys infinitely more fascinating than mine...would rather play with their trucks and cars and their meccano set.

But to be denied the girlie stuff...that would be heartbreaking.

hedgewitch said...

So much going on in this one--I think that I've never seen the horses used quite the way you have here, so comprehensively, for so many things, and so close to what they really are in the soul. Great forgiveness in this poem, acute ear-pressed-to-the-ground perceptions of life and family, and your unquenchable adventure-attracted little self is like a bright candle flame in a musty attic that shows the way to a secret trapdoor to the stars. And stuff. I liked it very much, as perhaps you can tell.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

Ummm......what she said. (That was beautiful, Hedgewitch!) The poems of yours that I love the most are the ones about your childhood. One can so feel that little girl's loneliness and solitude. The hoof beats across the plains is inspired.........with hope that one day your life would be yours. So thankful you made it through to joy and can write so beautifully your poems could sing the birds down from the trees.

Wow. I REALLY loved this one.

secret, fragile skies said...

Exquisite work here. Love this poem and the others. Lydia directed me here, happy to find you! re: Barthelme, yes - the quote is from that book. Off to your book blog :)

Daryl said...

How sad for her she never has got to know the real you

Sara said...

Shay,

I always read the comments when I come to your site. That's one of the things I like about your poetry -- it seems to raise different issues in different people.

I felt a combination of the things with this poem -- sadness for the little girl, strength in her ability to deal with what life has given her, and hope in the hoof beats that will take her to her own joy.

Lastly, as I read the poem one more time I think "What would we do without imagination?"

Lisa said...

oh wow, this is thought provoking, am going off on rest of day to think upon this - and also, your writing is beautiful xx

La Belette Rouge said...

Dear Tiger-friend,
So sad. I wish I could have given you my canopy bed with frilly places for stuffed animals to nestle in. That said, that wasn't a good room either. I guess the good news is that we have a room of our own now.
Beautiful, touching and world-creating poetry, as usual.
Much love,
Weasel-friend
xoxo

willow said...

Beautiful. I connected with this on so many levels.

Cloudia said...

You scour my soul with your True Poetry, O' Shay!



Aloha from Waikiki

Comfort Spiral

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Lydia said...

I felt very small as I read this and felt your alienation. Your mother loomed large but you were on bareback and away you rode toward all of us...

Jannie Funster said...

OMG, this is one of your finest, Shay. Like bad news in the doorway, wasn't that the story of my childhood too!

And how was 1904? Good year to slip into?

xoxo

Rene/ Not The Rockefellers said...

Aww..sweetie, thank you!

And though she wasn't my brother :), I inherited all of my big sisters stuff...when she was good and tired of it

gabrielle said...

The spirit of wild horses sings through this piece. No matter the dislocation, wildness brings you home.

Your writing is beautiful!

moondustwriter said...

Ah the memories and the stories in the heads of a child

we could do anything inside the four walls of our minds

and you still do my friend

Happy Thanksgiving

Moonie hugs

Mama Zen said...

Outstanding, Shay.