HORSES

Always, the learning begins with words.
First are simple expressions, to be recited
by a child. Back, tail, ear,

hoof, nose. Then, others
full of nuance and suggestive intent—
mane, canon bones, bridge, wither.

Once you learn the body you come to know
the gear, its rich aroma
of oil and leather, chocolate

or deep black with gleaming rivets.
There is the lead rope, the shanks,
the bridle joined to the bit,

the ready saddle. And after
the mount there are more: words
that move the rippling legs¾

walk, trot, yield, and finally,
stand, when the animal rests,
attentive to the shrug of your thighs,

the angle of your hips.
Canter and gallop come next,
meant to convey speed,

the way the forest around a
trail degenerates into a green blur,
the almost concurrent pound of three

hooves, then a pause as the mount
gathers, collects her legs, and spurs
forth with muscled power.

Only then can you fully speak the fluid
elegance of these animals, their dark eyes,
personae as distinct and sharp

as their smell—Appaloosa,
Saddlebred, Thoroughbred, Arabian,
Royal Lippizon, Warmblood.

Only then will you know that horses
are beautiful for themselves, but also for
their conjuring, their spell of words.

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