I stand, waiting,
trembling in the iron holding pen,
remembering the once heaven of unrestrained movement,
galloping across open spaces,
the ground shaking with our thunderous hoofs beating the tall grasses,
snorts of joy, flying manes.
A herd of us together,
my mares, foals and me,
streaking past red buttes rising to kiss azure skies,
mountain tops poking up from low-slung streaky clouds, until….
Until they came.
to do their heartless job in helicopters
to shatter our world,
to round us up,
to tear us apart.
I am a stallion, a wild Mustang.
I stand in the dirt of a steel prison
with other horse prisoners.
racing across plains of sagebrush, bluegrass, Utah juniper and mountain mahogany.
Tearing up foothill slopes, across plateaus blissfully empty of imperious humans,
through deep, steep-walled canyons,
our hearts trilling with flight and freedom.
Many of us
in the hands of misled humans.
Tennessee Walkers –
Oil of mustard, diesel oil on feet and lower legs wrapped in plastic.
Burning blistering, pain.
Nails pounded into laminae, heavy chains around pasterns.
Prancing, legs snatched up with the pain of The Big Lick
To the ohhhhhhs and ahhhhhhhhsof cheering crowds of misguided humans.
But not all of us,
some blessed to live with benign humans
who understand who we are,
respected as equal sentient beings,
free to romp in meadows with our kind.
True love can exist between human and horse,
even though the lottery is more often cruel than not,
as it is for rodeo and race horses.
Electric prods, spurs to irritate and enrage.
The bucking strap tightly cinched around abdomens,
causing vigorous bucking to throw off the heedless human tormentor.
Young horses pounded into the ground,
confined, isolated in stalls twenty-three hours a day.
Threats of whips, electric shocking devices inspiring speed
so fast as to break legs, lungs hemorrhaging.
for the truck to take me to the slaughterhouse.
Then down a ramp, through a chute
to the small, bright room
where a wretched human will miss my head with his captive bolt pistol.
I hate things by my head.
I will rear up, my eyes rolling
as I spin in hysteria.
He will shoot again
and again before a bullet hits its mark,
I will be dead, dumped out a side door,
strung upside down on hooks by my feet.
More dim humans will slit my throat, drain my blood,
hack me up into pieces for the meat company.
This, I wait for,
as I stand in the metal holding pen.
for what once was.