In truth I am puzzled most in life
by nine horses.
Two are on one side of the fence and seven
on the other side.
They stare at one another from the same places
hours and hours each day.
This is another unanswerable question
to haunt us with the ordinary.
We live far out in the country where I hear
creature voices night and day.
Like us they are talking about their lives
on this brief visit to earth.
In truth each day is a universe in which
we are tangled in the light of stars.
Stop a moment. Think about these horses
in their sweet-smelling silence.
~Jim Harrison from “Horses”
Fingers of twilight shadow
begin to reach over the hill
crawling down through the field
up unto the bank of blackberries
covering fences along the alder grove.
The horses chew their last
leaves of clover before
coming to the barn for night, eyelids heavy,
relaxed and full, drowsy with spring evening
peace at hand and hoof.
A sudden change in the air forces
their heads up and ears forward;
they form a line, staring at the hilltop
above them, riveted to the spot, alert
to an coming intruder, unfamiliar and foreign.
The roar is intermittent, like a warm wind
rattling a barn roof, but inconstant;
then peaking over the crest of the hill
a rounded top of technicolor glory:
The hot air balloon rises.
The horses silenced, baffled, fascinated;
no alpine instinct prepares their response
to this wizard’s act from Oz in their own backyard.
The basket riders wave and laugh at the equine audience below
in formation with golden noses in the air and white manes blowing in the breeze.
The balloon summits the hill, dipping low, almost touchable
before moving back up to race the sunset,
and search out other pastures, other valleys and hills.
The horses released from the spell
leap in response, snowy tails high, noses flared-
To race up the hill to catch impending darkness,
night mares cavort, float suspended
until their air is let out, gently, in softening snorts,
to settle down in a shavings bed in the barn
where night, blissful, becomes ordinary again.