Poem of the Week | December 03, 2008

This week we’re proud to feature “Why Some Girls Love Horses” by Paisley Rekdal. The poem first appeared in TMR 31:2. Paisley Rekdal is the author of a book of essays, The Night My Mother Met Bruce Lee (Pantheon, 2000 and Vintage, 2002), and three books of poetry: A Crash of Rhinos (University of Georgia Press, 2000), Six Girls Without Pants (Eastern Washington University Press, 2002) and The Invention of the Kaleidoscope (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2007).

I can talk for hours about other people’s poetry, something I enjoy doing and that I think makes me a better poet, as it helps clarify my thinking about different aesthetics. With that in mind, here are the poets and books I was reading/ rereading at the time these poems were being written: Larry Levis’s Elegy, Jorie Graham’s Erosion, John Clare’s collected poems and Cole Swenson’s The Glass Age. If you haven’t read these books, you should go out and purchase them immediately.

Why Some Girls Love Horses

And then I thought, Can I have more
of this, would it be possible
for every day to be a greater awakening: more light,
more light, your face on the pillow
with the sleep creases rudely
fragmenting it, hair so stiff
from paint and Sheetrock it feels
like the dirty short hank
of mane I used to grab on Dandy’s neck
before he hauled me up and forward,
white flanks flecked green
with shit and the satin of his dander,
the livingness, the warmth
of all that blood just under the skin
and in the long, thick muscle of the neck-
he was smarter than most of the children
I went to school with. He knew
how to stand with just the crescent
of his hoof along a boot toe and press,
incrementally, his whole weight down. _ e pain
so surprising when it came,
its iron intention sheathed in stealth, the decisive
sudden twisting of his leg until the hoof
pinned one’s foot completely to the ground,
we’d have to beat and beat him with a brush
to push him off , that hot
insistence with its large horse eye trained
deliberately on us, to watch-

Like us, he knew how to announce through violence
how he didn’t hunger, didn’t want
despite our practiced ministrations: too young
not to try to empathize
with this cunning: this thing
that was and was not human we must respect
for itself and not our imagination of it: I loved him because
I could not love him anymore
in the ways I’d taught myself,
watching the slim bodies of teenagers
guide their geldings in figure eights around the ring
as if they were one body, one fluid motion
of electric understanding I would never feel
working its way through fingers to the bit: this thing
had a name, a need, a personality; it possessed
an indifference that gave me
logic and a measure: I too might stop wanting
the hand placed on back or shoulder
and never feel the longed-for response.
I loved the horse for the pain it could imagine

and inflict on me, the sudden jerking
of head away from halter, the tentative nose
inspecting first before it might decide
to relent and eat. I loved
what was not slave or instinct, that when you turn to me
it is a choice, it is always a choice to imagine pleasure
might be blended, one warmth
bleeding into another as the future
bleeds into the past, more light, more light,
your hand against my shoulder, the image
of the one who taught me disobedience
is the first right of being alive.