Tuesday Poem: “Poem About a Horse” by Jenny Bornholdt

Poem About a Horse

This poem could be about your horse.
This horse here, or a horse
you remember, either one will be fine

and either way you will need to include
some other animal to keep the horse
company. This could be your friend’s dog—

your friend from childhood who spent
a lot of time in trees and climbed down
once, with you not noticing, still reading

in the tree hut. Or your sister’s guinea pigs—
again from childhood—eating up the back
lawn. At a stretch, it could be the chocolate reindeer

you bought and carried around in your pocket
all day, though that’s not much company
for a horse. Yaks could be good. The yaks

you heard about from the nice young man who sold you
your phone—the global roaming one. His uncle
was a yak farmer who lived next door to an Amish

community. In exchange for wool they helped him
build his house—big, so the yaks could come
inside. Tables and chairs were nailed to the floor

so the animals wouldn’t knock them over
as they wandered about the kitchen. Yes,
a yak could be good. Once, when I was global

roaming—high above the earth, trembling
towards home—the lights below were soft
and woolly, just like a yak, I thought. So,

your horse might like a yak for company.
I myself would like that, though a yak
certainly wouldn’t fit inside our house,

not the way it is at present. We could always get
a tradesman to widen the doorways and fix
the furniture, but our record with tradesmen is hardly

spectacular. We attract the kind of man who is very nice,
but whose personal circumstances—surfing and a new
fiancée, for instance—mean he starts a job but never

finishes. This accounts for things like the very long skirting board
which sticks up and out from behind our sofa like a piece of wood
you might tie an old pillowcase to to prevent other people

driving into it as you deliver it to the tip. We wouldn’t invite
that particular tradesman back to yak-proof the house.
Your horse might prefer a hare or quail. Both appear

at dusk, so you could introduce them then. They also like it
after a thunderstorm, the sort that comes quickly, out of
nowhere, so you’re stuck barbecuing rain.

Once you’ve settled on your animal, your horse might need a drink,
and by then, of course, it could be evening, the time of day when
light flees for safety in the hills. The poem can wait. It’s time now

to stable your horse. If it’s the horse that’s here, that’s an easy matter;
but if it’s the horse you’ve remembered, you’ll need to also remember
the stable and the colour of the girl’s shoes as she took the horse
XXinside

last night to settle. What was on her mind as she led the horse, clip
clop, through the stable door? Was it the boy with the voice like
a river? Or was it the river with a boat that would take her to the
XXhouse

of the man who, for heaven’s sake, was old enough to be
her father? You’ll need to think about that. And her shoes? Were they
her sister’s or her brother’s? The colour of the sky needs to be

remembered, the state of the moon, and which bird makes a racket;
and then, most importantly, you’ll need to forget that sound,
deep inside your ear, which is the sound of the world unravelling
XXitself.

This amazing poem is from Jenny Bornholdt’s new collection, The Hill of Wool (VUP), that I have just reviewed for FishHead Magazine (I think the review will appear in the August/September issue). I enjoyed Bornholdt’s new collection immensely, but it was this poem that stayed with me. The poem talks to ideas of memory, story telling, and our use of animals to represent and symbolise, while still being funny. For me, the test of a long poem is the ending. To earn it’s length, I think, the ending needs to take you somewhere else, somewhere unexpected and open; somewhere inconclusive but final. The poem nails it, I’d say.

“Poem About a Horse” has been used with the kind permission of VUP. You can read more about The Hill of Wool on Victoria University Press’ website.

Check out other Tuesday Poems at the Tuesday Poem hub.

6 thoughts on “Tuesday Poem: “Poem About a Horse” by Jenny Bornholdt

  1. What an amazing way to start a Tuesday. Thanks Sarah, it is a spectacular poem – so many brilliant images – the yak-proof house, the long skirting board, the business of stabling the horse at the end … I will have to buy this collection now for sure.

    Interesting what you say about the test of a long poem – sometimes I think poets rely too much on the ending and forget the need for muscularity in the middle … this one holds us every step of the way, like a good story… I’d love to read it to children and get them to draw pictures of what it’s about…

    [a tiny copying issue – the ‘s’ is missed off ‘makes’ in ‘which bird makes a racquet’ … ]

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