Tacking Up

Emerson Kurdi

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.