MTPR

Reflections On Hoofbeats And Poetry, From Chelsea Drake And Maxine Kumin

Jan 11, 2017

"Some days I’m the little girl I was 15 years ago: leather boots in tall grass, stroking the black silk neck of my horse," writes Chelsea Drake, assistant editor and writer at Missoula Valley Lifestyle Magazine. "She and I are like limbs of the same tree, growing up and into ourselves, finding a way through fire and ice.

I rub my hands together to ball up the horse hair and field dust of the day as it splinters along my fingers and lifelines. I pick lush grass and feed it to her over the fence, no longer having to stand on the bottom rail to reach her.

These memories in our day-to-day remind me of another life--a time when my father was alive, when my mother would tie blue ribbons at the end of my waist-length braids and take my picture on the front lawn before a competition. I can still relive those too-dark-to-see mornings in the scent of my horse's mane and muzzle and in the salty-sweet bouts of her breath.

This horse has buoyed me the way every cowgirl’s horse has, by being there. I well up with tears watching her stretch out across our pasture, the way I sometimes did when both of us were small. It’s the sacred sweat that we've shed along these years that’s worn away our innocence without our knowing. It’s the language we speak when the rhythm of her hooves matches that of my heart."

The everyday details of life that develop into one's central passion are also present in Maxine Kumin's poem, "A Calling." Kumin, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for poetry and Poet Laureate of the U.S. from 1981-1982, conducts an imaginary conversation with modernist artist Georgia O’Keeffe - who was an accomplished horsewoman and an honoree in the Cowgirl Hall of Fame.

Over my desk Georgia O’Keeffe says
I have no theories to offer and then
takes refuge in the disembodied
third person singular: One works
I suppose because it is the most
interesting thing one knows to do.

O Georgia! Sashaying between
first base and shortstop as it were
drawing up a list of all the things
one imagines one has to do…
You get the garden planted. You
take the dog to the vet. You
certainly have to do the shopping.

Syntax, like sex, is intimate.
One doesn’t lightly leap from person
to person. The painting, you said,
is like a thread that runs
through all the reasons for all the other
things that make one’s life.

O awkward invisible third person,
come out, stand up, be heard!
Poetry is like farming. It’s
a calling, it needs constancy,
the deep woods drumming of the grouse,
and long life, like Georgia’s, who
is talking to one, talking to me,
talking to you.
 

(Broadcast: "Reflections West," 7/6/16 and 1/11/17. Listen weekly on the radio, Wednesdays at 4:54 p.m.)