Loving Horses

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Alyssa, small version


“With one particular horse, called Nugget, he embraces. The animal digs its sweaty brow into his cheek, and they stand in the dark for an hour like a necking couple. And of all nonsensical things, I keep thinking about the horse! Not the boy: the horse, and what it may be trying to do…”

That’s the psychiatrist Martin Dysart in Peter Schaffer’s play, “Equus,” wondering what is gained or lost on either side, boy or horse, by such contact. It’s a magnificent play, but those lines could only have been written by someone who was not a horse person. Horse people know.

My sister sent me a poem recently, by Robert Wrigley, and its arrival coincided with the arrival of the photograph above of a young friend, Alyssa, seventeen and just about to graduate high school, loving on her horse. I thought I would include both for your enjoyment.

Kissing a Horse

Of the two spoiled, barn-sour geldings
we owned that year, it was Red—
skittish and prone to explode
even at fourteen years—who’d let me
hold my face to his own: the massive labyrinthine
caverns of the nostrils, the broad plain
up to the head to the eyes. He’d let me stroke
his coarse chin whiskers and take
his soft meaty underlip
in my hands, press my man’s carnivorous
kiss to his grass-nipping under half of one, just
so that I could smell
the long way his breath had come from the rain
and the sun, the lungs and the heart,
from a world that meant no harm.

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