Bow under the crosstie ropes securing your horse
to the ground. Bend over your grooming bag,
finger over the warm, bruised apple,
the harsh seamed plastic hoof pick,
prickly sugar crystals from jostled cubes,
the bumpy-bottomed curry comb – to agitate dust
from his back – and select the horsehair brush,
wood worn by drops.
Stroke the dust, hay, and sleep
from where they have settled on his curves,
sweep from the withers, with the grain, quick-wristed
towards his rump. Careful, the leather and shit
scented dust congeals in your snot and tears –
I remember once,
asking politely for his foot
by squeezing his fetlock bump
and lifting – wielding the pick against my hand
like tugging a nail with a hammer claw,
coaxing mush and rock from his shoe
to free him of pain and the potential to slip, accidentally
hacking at his frog, sending his pointed toe towards mine
in protest, like a spade piercing soft loam.
Despite his repeated abuse – you’ll blame yourself –
heave the pad and saddle over his shoulder,
horse-left, your right, echoing cavalry tradition:
mounting left to protect him from the sword.
Wiggle the horn to kiss the smallest hairs
of his coarse mane, clip girth and pull deep
upward – Once, I forgot to watch
the glint in his eye while squeezing
his barrel and buckling, unaware
of how fast his thick neck could carry
his teeth to my arm – he never breaks skin, though.
In the final act of this tenuous dance, unravel the bridle
strings, flick reigns over neck and split his bite
at the tooth-gap with your thumb, funnel the bit
between his velveteen lips. Listen to him crunch,
watch his round jaw muscle pulse, urge perked ears
and forelock through the browband, eye-to-eye.
EMERSON KURDI is a graduate student at Texas Tech University, concentrating in Creative Writing. If he has a weekend to spare, you could find him hiking in the New Mexican wilderness with his wife and dogs, or pretending to like craft beer with his friends on a restaurant patio. You can find other poems written by Emerson at The Dillydoun Review.