National Poetry Month: ‘She Had Some Horses’

This month I would like to mention several collections of poetry that speak to me. Let’s begin with Joy Harjo’s 1983 collection She Had Some Horses with its powerful title poem of the same name. Harjo’s poems are wind, rain, earth, fire, and spirit. Read them when you have time to meditation upon the pure, non-human and essential wildness of the natural world at its most basic and primitive level. This book is a good first step.

“I discovered “She Had Some Horses” while preparing for the poetry class I teach at an elementary school in San Francisco. Harjo’s poems ache with grit, grief and nature. They feel like that moment of insomnia when twilight breaks. Her lines are curt and heavy but they construct delicate stories. I thought She Had Some Horses would be perfect for kids this young, whose imaginations are still lush and wild. To them, horses are still spirited creatures, not farm workers.” – Julie Morse in The Rumpus

Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Harjo is a member of the Mvskoke Nation. She has written seven books of award winning poetry. She also writes and performs original music, available on five CDs

In her introductory remarks to the 1997 edition, Harjo writes, “I do not know how to explain the horses, how to tell you about the genesis of the poems, or the poem “She had some horses.” I am asked often about these poems, to elaborate the process, the history, the mythic sense, the horses, I have changed as much as these poems through the years. Nothing ever stays the same, whether it be poems or humans. When I look back over the many lines between then and now I remember a very young woman with a typewriter, entering the field of imagination with a great trust, even wildness. And there were the horses shimmering in the sun and rain on the battlefield of gains and losses, always revealing the possibility of love.”

For the current 2008 paperback edition introduction, she says, “Horses, like the rest of us, can transform and be transformed. A horse could be a streak of sunrise, a body of sand, a moment of ecstasy. A horse could be all of this at the same time. Or a horse might be nothing at all but the imagination of the wind. Or a herd of horses galloping from one song to the next could become a book of poetry.”

The horse is my totem animal. Perhaps he nudged me into this book. Or maybe it was the wind or the gods. You will find your way into this marvel if the universe wills it. If so, you will never leave. Every time you walk from page to page you will be changed. That’s the nature of the words you’ll find here.




That Little Horse They Call ‘Miracle’

While horses have played important roles in my novels “The Sun Singer” and “Garden of Heaven: an Odyssey,” I haven’t ridden a horse in 30 years. Nonetheless, within the infinite pastures of my memory, I recall riding bareback across a snowy field on a cold morning, sitting like a proverbial sack of potatoes on an old roan named “Flame” in the sunshine on a high Alberta mountain trail, and fording a wide Montana river by the light of a bright moon.

These days, I might find a stationary carousel horse to be a riding challenge, proving, I think, that my practical horsemanship skills are limited. Yet, even from my limited perspective, I’m quite sure that there’s a special hell for those who abuse horses and a special heaven for those who save them.

Miracle: “Well Broke Under Saddle”

In February, a friend whose farm stands across the road from my father-in-law’s farm here in Georgia, drove out to look at an 8-10-month-old filly he saw advertised as well broke under saddle. The horse he found had been so badly injured, starved and otherwise abused, that he convinced the seller to let him haul it away and at least give it a decent burial.

The top photo, taken February 3, shows the horse lying down because it couldn’t stand or walk. The lower photo shows Miracle a month later. Our friend cared for her until she could travel again, and then she was moved to the nearby Sunkissed Acres in Summerville, Georgia for a rehabilitation.

According to the Sunkissed Acres blog of February 3rd, “She has no legs, she has no chest, she has no hope. She is literally run into the ground. I can almost pick the little thing up by myself. She is eating and drinking well, when we stand her up, she can walk around but when she gets tired, she lies down again and cant get herself up.” (Click on the photo for the entire post from SunKissed.)

Miracle’s New Home

On March 14th, the angels at Sunkissed Acres finished their work. The starved and damaged horse that couldn’t stand up was now able to run. Miracle now runs and eats well in the heaven of a horse retirement farm named Paradigm.

On the day the filly arrived, the Paradigm Farms blog said, “Today Miracle had an ending and a beginning. Her time at Sunkissed Acres came to an end today. Lori, the founder of Sunkissed Acres Rescue, did an amazing job of rehabilitating Miracle and getting her healthy and strong enough to move on to her new life. When one chapter ends a new one begins, and today was the beginning of Miracle’s new life with us.”

The U.S. Equine Rescue League defines neglect “as failure to provide sustenance and care sufficient to maintain an equine’s good health. This includes food, water, shelter, veterinary and farrier care.” Because of the compassion of a farmer named David, the loving rehabilitation by a rescuer named Lori and the long-term care being provided by Jason, the little horse they still call Miracle no longer fits this definition.

This is one story with a happy ending. With our donations and with the good work of the folks at farms such as Sunkissed Acres, the number of prospective miracles is infinite.

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