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The Broken Horse
contributed by
G. E. Graven
gegraven@gravenbooks.com

This is a powerful poem, but it is a poem that some readers may find disturbing. Because of that, we were uncertain about including it in the Open Space collection. During our debate, TZF’s Anna argued in favor, noting that, whether the poet intended so or not, she finds here a compelling symbol of the struggle between a seeker and his or her “old soul”.

Open Space

The Broken Horse

I arrived quite promptly at the market square
hoping a buyer of my horse would be there
I required the pounds for a debt I’d pay
On a drunken wager lost yesterday

Since I hadn’t the coinage to make the debt good
I had three horses and one of them could
The oldest was frail and sickly indeed
and this one I’d barter to cover the deed

“Damn this mare,” I mused to myself
“I had two others in much greater health”
and this one I marched to the market square
a crooked old horse and a broken down mare

I grinned at the fancy of the next to own her,
Indeed he would curse me, that dejected owner
But of concern to me was a debt to be paid
regardless of trade or deceit that I played

It soon became solid as the day wore on
I would have no purchaser for which to pawn
this decrepit old mare I began to detest
and I lowered her price to a second-best

The market square secured its shops
as dark clouds clustered over naked tree tops
and the sun sunk low in the village West
along with the outlay to an any-best

The beast was not fancied, and this seemed certain
The village fled home, from the stormy curtain
that swelled to black in the Eastern sky
and men scurried by as loud as I’d cry

A gale wind coughed and I fell chilled to the bone
the eve had fallen and I surrendered home
The distance was great so I left the square
with arrears unsettled on a crooked mare

The air was ice and inkwell black
I made haste homeward, I headed back
to the simple cottage on the seashore’s shelf
lived in by none but my ripe-aged self

I charged on thunder while galloping East
through a wooded trail of many o’ beast
yet the clouds cracked open and wept their souls
as I dashed up the way of mud-filled holes

With reins in hand and hooves at trail
I galloped away on a mount so frail
that she cracked as a twig and fell to the ground
I drew my colt and she neighed no sound

As I scurried on foot through the sleeting air
I heard the wind whisper a whimper where
the pitch of night stood – front, back and side
the whimper of mourn when the living has died

A cold like steel had ripped me apart
considering the dead I rushed without heart
I raced the beast at continual strain
blind to the animal’s compiling pain

My pace had quickened at this culpable thought
and through the sea of sleet I fought
my way to safety;  to my shelter on the shore
where the unrested being will concern me no more

But the horror had established its truth at once
when I heard a neigh from the broken horse
that I erased with my colt – a shot to the head
and checked it for life; I’m sure she was dead

Yet now I gathered the following steps
of the once-dead beast and then perhaps
the dragging sound of a twisted hoof
as it scrapped the rocks in horrid proof
that the horse’s immortal was haunting its master –
the soul that slew her was the whole she was after

“Away, you pest,” I snapped at the wind
but it squalled all the greater and stinging again,
pulling and tugging at my buttoned coat seam
whilst infecting my ears with a yowling scream

For many o’ mile I charged through the rain
to flee this beast of wandering pain
Its horrible hoof lay scratching the stones
and flushing a madness through my very bones

Finally I broke through the fields of my home
and fixed my sight on its comforting stone.
I broke with a passion whilst gasping for air
since I knew at the cottage, my saneness was there

Upon reaching the door, I spun wide around
to see only sleet and a fallow ground
I found no hoofed-demon as I imagined last
I bent over heaving, as convulsions passed

I studied the earth at a branch I could feel
lodged in the rear of my split boot heel
that mimicked the sound of a dragging hoof
my fear was madness as there lay the proof

I mused at the fancy of my spurious fright,
of fleeing from ghosts in the midst of night
I unbolted the door and my cheeks flushed red
as, there stared the mare with a gap in her head.

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