Why I Am Obsessed with Horses

Because when I saw a horse
cross a river
and named it Ghost Rubble
it said No my name is 1935
because it also spoke in tongues
as it crossed the black tongue
of the water
because it still arcs through me
with its zodiac
of shrapnel-bright stars
because the river’s teeth
still gnash
against its flank
and its eyes
still have the luster
of black china
glowing black-bright
in the glass hutch of memory
because a horse’s skull
is a ditch of wildflowers
because a horse’s skull
is a box of numbers
a slop bucket
resting upside down
under barn eaves
wind in an empty stockyard
orange clay that breaks
shovel handles with a shrug
because a horse is the underwriter
of all motion
because a horse is the first
and last item
on every list
of every season
and because that night the air
smelled green as copper
and lath dust
and that night as it scrambled
up the bank and stamped past me
it said Unlike you
I am the source of all echoes.

More by Michael McGriff

Opening Gambit

Two decommissioned highways cross
and continue toward their borders
with the casual certainty
the dead carry in their sample cases.
Leaning against the wind
I notice tufts of fur in the air
and a driveshaft rising from the sand,
then the horsehair of a violinist's bow
drawn steadily across my neck.



About this poem:
"Something I've always found meaningful and bewitching is a short poem's ability to exist at the crossroads of vastly real and vastly metaphorical landscapes—the universe captured in a fleeting, image-driven shapshot. Charles Simic claims there is a 'religion of the short poem,' and I think he's right. As for the poems I've been working on over the past year, which include 'Opening Gambit,' I've found myself at the altar of Yannis Ritos, James Wright, and John Haines."

Michael McGriff