I believe in magic. I believe in the rights
of animals to leap out of our skins
as it is said in the Tlingit legend:
That instant a bear appeared where a boy had been
as I believe in the resurrected wake-robin,
first wet knob of trillium to knock
in April at the underside of earth's door
in central New Hampshire where bears are,
though still denned up at that early greening.
I believe in living on grateful terms
with the earth, with the black crumbles
of ancient manure that sift through my fingers
when I topdress the garden for winter. I believe
in the red strings of earthworms aroused out of season
and in the bear, asleep now in the rock cave
where my outermost pasture abuts the forest.
I cede him a swale of chokeberries in August.
I give the sow and her cub as much yardage
as they desire when our paths intersect,
as does my horse shifting under me
respectful but not cowed by our encounter.
I believe in the gift of the horse, which is magic,
their deep fear-snorts in play when the wind comes up,
and the ballet of nip and jostle, plunge and crow hop.
I trust them to run from me, necks arched in a full
swan's S, tails cocked up over their backs
like plumes on a Cavalier's hat. I trust them
to gallop back, skid to a stop, their nostrils
level with my mouth, asking for my human breath
that they may test its intent, taste the lure of it.
I believe in myself as their sanctuary
and in the earth with its summer plumes of carrots,
its clamber of peas, beans, masses of tendrils
as mine. I believe in the acrobatics of boy
into bear, the grace of animals
in my keeping, the thrust to go on.
Oh, here -- this was included in Songs of Horses (1920) so is public domain to the best of my knowledge.
No Rest for the Horse
There’s a union for teamster and waiter,
There’s a union for cabman and cook,
There’s a union for hobo and preacher,
And one for detective and crook.
There’s a union for blacksmith and painter,
There is one for the printer, of course;
But where would you go in this realm of woe
To discover a guild for the horse?
He can’t make a murmur in protest,
Though they strain him both up and down hill,
Or force him to work twenty hours
At the whim of some drunken brute’s will.
Look back at our struggle for freedom —
Trace our present day’s strength to its source,
And you’ll find that man’s pathway to glory
Is strewn with the bones of the horse.
The mule is a fool under fire;
The horse, although frightened, stands true,
And he’d charge into hell without flinching
‘Twixt the knees of the trooper he knew.
When the troopers grow old they are pensioned,
Or a berth or a home for them found;
When horse is worn out they condemn him
And sell him for nothing a pound.
Just think, the old pet of some trooper,
Once curried and rubbed twice a day,
Now drags some damned ragpicker’s wagon,
With curses and blows for his pay.
I once knew a grand king of racers,
The best of a cup-winning strain;
They ruined his knees on a hurdle,
For his rider’s hat covered no brain.
I met him again, four years later,
On his side at the foot of a hill,
With two savages kicking his ribs,
And doing their work with a will.
I stroked the once velvety muzzle,
I murmured the old name again.
He once filled my purse with gold dollars;
And this day I bought him for ten.
His present address is “Sweet Pastures,”
He has nothing to do but to eat;
Or loaf in the shade on the green, velvet grass
And dream of the horses he beat.
Now, a dog — well, a dog has a limit;
After standing for all that’s his due,
He’ll pack up his duds some dark evening
And shine out for scenes which are new.
But a horse, once he’s used to his leather,
Is much like the old-fashioned wife:
He may not be proud of his bargain,
But still he’ll be faithful through life.
And I envy the merciful teamster
Who can stand at the bar and say:
“Blind Lord, with the justice I dealt my horse,
Judge Thou my soul to-day.”