American Life in Poetry: Column 098

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

A horse’s head is big, and the closer you get to it, the bigger it gets. Here is the Idaho poet, Robert Wrigley, offering us a horse’s head, up close, and covering a horse’s character, too.

Kissing a Horse

Of the two spoiled, barn-sour geldings
we owned that year, it was Red—
skittish and prone to explode
even at fourteen years—who’d let me
hold to my face his own: the massive labyrinthine
caverns of the nostrils, the broad plain
up the head to the eyes. He’d let me stroke
his coarse chin whiskers and take
his soft meaty underlip
in my hands, press my man’s carnivorous
kiss to his grass-nipping upper half of one, just
so that I could smell
the long way his breath had come from the rain
and the sun, the lungs and the heart,
from a world that meant no harm.


We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Reprinted from Earthly Meditations: New and Selected Poems, published in 2006 by Penguin. Copyright © Robert Wrigley, 2006, and reprinted by permission of the author. Introduction copyright © 2017 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.