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December 2009, vol 5 no 4

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Richard Straw

 

Horses

Years ago, I used to commute past a pair of old horses early each weekday morning where the city met the countryside, about 3 miles from my suburban home. The overlap now starts much farther away and is more of a blur. The man who owned a bungalow and a lean-to barn in a large fenced-in corner lot–half loblollies and half meadow–used the horses like sheep to keep his wild grass and weeds low. As he picked up the newspaper at his mailbox, he'd occasionally nod at the traffic, and once or twice I thought he may have waved at me.

pine grove in fog–
horses' necks curved
to morning hay

Because his horses were slope backs, they probably weren't much use for anything else but grazing. The owner of a large ranch house across the road had a smaller lot and a pond, and he kept an old horse, too, for the same purpose. He must have loaned his to his neighbor because I'd often see all three horses calmly nibbling patches of grass among the pines or stretching their necks for wildflowers through the wire fence. As I sometimes idled in backed-up traffic exhaust at the corner light, the horses would also pause and look up with soulful eyes.

three horses
among fallen leaves
in drizzling rain

When the rural road was finally widened to accommodate urban sprawl, the man with the two horses sold out, and his property was clearcut for another paved-over strip mall. His neighbor still lives across the road, next to a pharmacy now, and he keeps his many Christmas decorations up year round. His front yard's not as deep as it was, and its large oaks have been harvested for their wood. His old horse is gone, too, replaced after it died, perhaps from loneliness, with a pony that I often see standing motionless by a Santa sled and toy house near the drive.

black horse
noses frosted grass stems–
year's end

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