About a Horse

It’s always the reins that put me off. That direct link to slavery.
A master designing a halter especially for his slave. Adjustable.

And I think the mare knew this. And sensed I was no leader.
Or maybe she forgot about me, light-boned girl child on her

inverted lap. All she heard was the lowing of a distant cow,
and some nascent memory of her own made her bolt.

It’s always been this way. I signal weakness.
You don’t need to be human to know

I am scared of you. You can be animal too. And if you
are scared of me, we have double trouble.

There were many of us there that day.
But when it was you bolting, and me

clinging on, my fingers in your mane, my thighs
gripping your haunches, where did they go?

Where were you going?
How did we survive?

The irony was this: we had come to the end of our time
together. We had had our neat and tidy

trot around the rough red tracks, and now we were gathering
to part. My brothers had had their gallops (they preferred

gallops, I did not; you were chosen for your sedate pace)
and I was ready for solid ground

but

I was tied to you: my feet in your stirrups. I was already leaning,
arms outstretched for the lifting up, over, down

when you decided to run.

How long do horses live? You were a hill station, holiday
treat horse. You were real; there is a picture of us.

I was always scared. You were always gentle.
Until that day.

I wish I could remember your name. But what then?
You never knew mine - did you?

Did I call out your name when I begged you to
stop? You heard nothing, it seemed, only wind,

and whatever was driving you on. Did you hear
me scream, Bachao! Bachao! because I could see

hill station women, babies wrapped snug, safe
in their mother’s arms, and I was, you were,

thundering further and further from mine?

It wasn’t my mother who saved me. Or a stranger’s.
It was you. All I had to do was hold on

until you ran out of fear, and I heard your heartbeats
allargando, adagio, adagissimo. Last week, I thought of you

during a Beethoven concert, and talked about you
in the interval, and tried to convey something of our ride

into nothingness and how everything became clear
when you finally cantered to a halt.

He found us there, your trainer, but I can’t remember my rescue.
You were docile by then, chewing wild grass by the verge,

acting as though nothing had happened,
as though you often ran for your life, and to your

death: a ritual
you practiced for some final victory.

© Shaista Tayabali, 2015