Living Without Horses

“I believe in the gift of the horse, which is magic…”

         Maxine Kumin


Living without horses

is like breathing into the lungs

but never further:

never deep into the great cavity below

where horses of emerald and blue

fill the void with their squeals,

their thudding feet,

their waltzes into deep space.


To live without horses

is to slow down on the Sunset Highway

at a glimpse of chestnut rump

or a pair of pricked ears

above a bay face with a kind eye

that gazes toward the forests

draped like shawls over the Coast Range

where bluejays and woodpeckers ring out false alarms


and to breathe in the sweat and dust

of the police horse found unexpectedly

tethered to your parking meter after lunch –

then, at night, to rewind the videotape over

and over at the Budweiser commercial

sends you flying with the royal herd,

manes and tails like curtains of water,

nostrils more finely flared than the shelled human ear,


their elephantine feet

pounding the doors of a shuddering underworld

in the slowest waltz you’ve ever heard —

until, suddenly

you’re hearing it in your abdomen

and it spills over into arteries and bones

pulsing through all your crevices

like blood from the heart’s pump.


To live without horses is to carry them with you always:

the one who lifted you over the tiger trap,

the one who kicked you when you deserved it,

and the dappled grey one who lay down under you

and died as you ran away

unable to stay with him on that path

beside the golf course, breathing in

what  you would search and search for in the years to come.


Judith Barrington – Horses and the Human Soul© 2004



1. If you watched the Belmont Stakes, I hope you write about it!
2. Extol the wonders of horses in your own poem.
3. Write about a challenge that takes extreme stamina, speed, skill, and/or phenomenal luck.


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Writing Prompts Copyright © 2015 Featherstone, All rights reserved.

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