“Farrier” by Cal Freeman

Cal Freeman


A barn cat’s complaint set to the pitch of curdled milk,
the poem for Bill is no good. Bill, it gets no better:
a stone so useless it refuses to skip or sail or barter
against the wind’s heft.

Your words sprayed like gravel across the moat and landed
somewhere in the poverty grass. You have an eternity now to hold
no record. In the barn a gelding voids its bladder to the music
of wind against an aluminum roof.

They let you live here, paid you a pittance for each hoof
clipping lopped to the dirt. I called you a blacksmith once.
You corrected me, but placed little importance on the issue
with your tongs winched

to a horse’s nose, a small hammer
sending nails through its hoof.
Your mind trailing your missing teeth into dusk, you placed
a dollar in the pop machine, faltered

with the story of your travels, confusing states and mountains:
It was on Little Big Horn in Kentucky that you followed
dim tail lights into the whiteout. To say that you left
mid-sentence is to make it

seem quicker than your amble and drawl through the field,
back to the motor home, its engine block long vacant
except for bird straw and milkweed pouring
through the hood.

from Rattle #30, Winter 2008
Tribute to Cowboy and Western Poetry

[download audio]


Cal Freeman: “I began writing poetry in 8th grade after reading Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. That was also around the time I started riding Arabian horses at Rushlow’s Arabian Farm in Romulus, Michigan. Horses have always puzzled and fascinated me. The poem ‘Farrier’ was written after my friend Bill’s death. He was the only person I’d let do my horse’s hooves because he wasn’t ever in a hurry. He was a guy who honored Cormac McCarthy’s dictum: ‘A good horse has justice in its heart.’”

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