Equus Caballus

by Joel Nelson

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Equus Caballus

I have run on middle fingernail through eolithic morning,
And I’ve thundered down the coach road with the Revolution’s warning
I have carried countless errant knights who never found the grail.
I have strained before the caissons and moved the nations’ mail.

I’ve made knights of lowly tribesmen and kings from ranks of peons
And given pride and arrogance to riding men for eons.
I have grazed among the lodges and the tepees and the yurts.
I have felt the sting of driving whips and lashes, spurs and quirts.

I am roguish—I am flighty—I am inbred—I am lowly.
I’m a nightmare—I am wild—I am the horse.
I am gallant and exalted—I am stately—I am noble
I’m impressive—I am grand—I am the horse.

I have suffered gross indignities from users and from winners,
And I’ve felt the hand of kindness from the losers and the sinners.
I have given for the cruel hand and given for kind.
Heaved a sigh at Appomattox when surrender had been signed

I can be tough as hardened steel—fragile as a flower.
I know not my endurance and I know not my own power.
I have died with heart exploded ‘neath the cheering in the stands –
Calmly stood beneath the hanging noose of vigilante bands.

I have traveled under conqueror and underneath the beaten.
I have never chosen sides—I am the horse.
The world is but a player’s stage—my roles have numbered many.
Under blue or under gray I am the horse.

So I’ll run on middle fingernail until the curtain closes,
And I will win your triple crowns and I will wear your roses.
Toward you who took my freedom I’ve no malice or remorse.
I’ll endure—This Is My Year—

I am the Horse!

© 2002, Joel Nelson

JOEL NELSON has been a cowboy since the age of six, when he helped on a cattle drive to the railroad. He earned his bachelor’s in forestry and range management, built custom saddles, and served in Vietnam with the 101st Airborne Division. For more than thirty years, he made his living working on cow outfits in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and Hawaii, specializing in breaking colts. Respected as a cowboy’s cowboy, Nelson knows the work and handles horses and cattle with a gentleness of spirit. He helped found the Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Alpine, Texas, and is a recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship.


National Endowment for the Arts
Nevada Arts Council
NV Energy Foundation