Equus Caballus  By Joel Nelson

Written in the Autumn of the Year of the Horse 2002

I have run on middle fingernail through Eolithic morning,
I have thundered down the coach road with the Revolution’s warning.
I have carried countless errant knights who never found the grail.
I have strained before the caissons I have moved the nation’s mail.

I’ve made knights of lowly tribesmen and kings from ranks of peons
I have given pride and arrogance to riding men for eons.
I have grazed among the lodges and the tepees and the yurts.
I have felt the sting of driving whips, lashes, spurs and quirts.

      I am roguish – I am flighty – I am inbred – I am lowly.
      I’m a nightmare – I am wild – I am the horse.
      I am gallant and exalted – I am stately – I am noble.
      I’m impressive – I am grand – I am the horse.

I have suffered gross indignities from users and from winners,
I have felt the hand of kindness from the losers and the sinners.
I have given for the cruel hand and given for the kind.
Heaved a sigh at Appomattox when surrender had been signed.

I can be as tough as hardened steel – as fragile as a flower.
I know not my endurance and I know not my own power.
I have died with heart exploded ’neath the cheering in the stands -
Calmly stood beneath the hanging noose of vigilante bands.

      I have traveled under conqueror and underneath the beaten.
      I have never chosen sides – I am the horse.
      The world is but a player’s stage – my roles have numbered many.
      Under blue or under gray – I am the horse.

So I’ll run on middle fingernail until the curtain closes,
And I will win your triple crowns and I will wear your roses.
Toward you who took my freedom I’ve no malice or remorse.
I’ll endure – This Is My Year – I am the Horse!

Joel Nelson, “Equus Caballus” from Cowboy Poetry: The Reunion. Copyright © 2004 by Joel Nelson. Reprinted by permission of Gibbs Smith Publisher.

Source: Cowboy Poetry: The Reunion (Gibbs Smith Publisher, 2004)

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