August 24, 2011

Humans first prized horses for their strength and speed, but we have since been captivated by their beauty, their deep eyes and mysterious silences. Here’s a poem by Robert Wrigley, who lives in Idaho, where the oldest fossilized remains of the modern horse were found. [Introduction by Ted Kooser.]

After a Rainstorm

Because I have come to the fence at night,
the horses arrive also from their ancient stable.
They let me stroke their long faces, and I note
in the light of the now-merging moon

how they, a Morgan and a Quarter, have been
by shake-guttered raindrops
spotted around their rumps and thus made
Appaloosas, the ancestral horses of this place.

Maybe because it is night, they are nervous,
or maybe because they too sense
what they have become, they seem
to be waiting for me to say something

to whatever ancient spirits might still abide here,
that they might awaken from this strange dream,
in which there are fences and stables and a man
who doesn’t know a single word they understand.

I'm sure you won't have any trouble recognizing why I liked this poem...

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2010 by Robert Wrigley from his most recent book of poetry, Beautiful Country, Penguin Books, 2010. Introduction copyright © 2009 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.

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  1. Yes, captivating....that seems to sum it up well.

  2. I loved the poem, too. It does fit. It amazing how long humans and horses have been together.

    My daughter jumper recently died. He was old, but it was colic. Fortunately, they got to him before he was in too much pain. There wasn't much they do, given his age.

    I can still remember the first time she sat on him and how perfectly they flowed together over the jumps.

    He was a special soul and I trusted him with the most precious gift of all, my daughter. Other than a few times, when he bucked her off:~)he lived up to this trust. He knew when he couldn't make a distance to a jump and said NO, but if he could make it, he'd try his hardest.

    He'll be deeply missed.

  3. Sara--I'm so sorry to hear about your daughter's horse. It sounds like they had a special partnership, and that he was a unique and special member of the family. It always hurts to lose an animal like that.