When the horse bucked and threw
my daughter over its shoulders,
her shoulders hitting the ground
then a roll before the thoroughbred
trotted off to the sidewall—I missed it
because I was thinking about stars,
considering how small one life
is compared to the time it takes
light around the Horsehead Nebula
to reach the barn roof on Haycock Road.
My daughter rolled onto her knees
and stood up, brushed sawdust
off her pink riding pants then climbed back
onto the big mare and kicked
it into the ring again. She was eight
and just starting cello lessons, her music
like the sounds geese make
when they land in a field at night.
The instrument taller than her.
God how hard the heart works
to pump blood through a body,
how much a body wants to leap
like a string held taut against a horsehair bow.
We are always on the edge of falling
or flying, and the difference
is either luck, desire or muscle memory.
The next time she brought the horse
around to jump they cleared
the rail and kept going, she patting
the animal like a friend. I loved
her more than I could bear.
When light travels across the universe
to reach our little world there’s nothing,
not even gravity, along its path
to stop it. The heart works harder,
even a small one, pumping limbs
into a trot, guiding a half ton
of muscle over a wall. I won’t
argue that life isn’t work, but I believe
all things right themselves eventually.
Don’t listen to what anyone says. This,
trust me, this is the world we deserve.
—from Rattle #69, Fall 2020
Grant Clauser: “When our daughters were small and we could barely afford it, my wife and I signed the kids up for horse riding lessons. I couldn’t imagine two little girls more excited to hang around flies and manure. This poem is for Buster.” (web)