Borne Aloft or Sinking as the Light Wind Lives or Dies
—John Keats, from “To Autumn”
The animal liked the smell of whisky
and, all right, sure, I had been drinking.
The horse took it as a homecoming
of someone dear. A rodeo rider who,
I was told, cried upon selling the horse.
That fall day, I staggered to the barn.
Saddled the mare. I may have reached
up to stroke her withers. Said something
or she had whiffed my breath and decided
whatever a horse decides about a rider
that resurrects the ghost it carries.
The definition of a bridlewise horse
is one where lightly flicking the reins
to the left or right is command enough.
This mare was one of those. Bridlewise.
I was no rider. And the beast scared me.
You’re laughing, but that October afternoon
is rated R for language because the animal
taught me a horse is alive and has a mind,
its own memories. This one, of rodeos.
Roy Bentley has received fellowships from the NEA, the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs, and the Ohio Arts Council. Poems have appeared in The Southern Review, Shenandoah, Pleiades, Blackbird, North American Review, Prairie Schooner and elsewhere. Books include Boy in a Boat (University of Alabama, 1986), Any One Man (Bottom Dog, 1992), The Trouble with a Short Horse in Montana (White Pine, 2006), and Starlight Taxi (Lynx House 2013). He has taught creative writing and composition at universities and colleges throughout the Midwest and in Florida. These days, he teaches English and composition courses for Georgian Court University and lives in Barnegat, New Jersey.