In dead of winter

“under the night sky she mounted a mare and rode”

No one knew where she rode

On those dark and dreary nights


She always pointed to the paint

Brown and white, in the field

She always said it was hers

The one she rode under the night sky


A pretty little girl

Sheltered and protected from

All things that hurt

And yet, over time


Hurt would find her

Like a spell

Cast  long ago

Her urge to ride


Could come at any time

Was not limited

To the dead of winter

She said, she was “calling up grief”


August 9, 2018


Wordy Thursday with Wild Woman ~ Piggyback Poems

The Horses, the Sorrow,
the Umbilicus

Horses were turned loose in the child’s sorrow.
They galloped bare-boned, tore up her imagination’s
pasture. Simple things became surreal, malevolent –
a shoelace, a windup toy, the cross of a t
or the lost dot in her mother’s eye. Continents of grief
to traverse. She hadn’t yet seen the tidily grassed graves
at Arras or families rounded up in town squares, poisoned
blankets covering bodies in Haida Gwaii. Sometimes
under the night sky she mounted a mare and rode
into morning, through sunflowered bonfires, through
sermons and eulogies, past incense and teargas
till she reached the saltwater tide. She never knew
if she had swallowed sadness through her umbilicus,
joined still to her mother’s placental algebra.
The girl sat awhile, gazing out over the waves
to the rapidly rising sun, then dismounted,
looking to her left, looking to her right –Maureen Hynes

[Note“The horses were turned loose in the child’s sorrow” is the first line of Carolyn Forche’ ‘s poem, “Sequestered Writing”,  from Blue Hour (New York: Harper Collins, 2003; “Looking to the left, looking to the right. She-” is the last line of Gail Scott’s “Heroine” (Toronto: Coach House, 1987).]

This poem really speaks to me, the whole idea of horses being turned loose in a child’s sorrow – and the recognition that children indeed do have deep sorrows, that may be unacknowledged by the adults in their lives.
Maureen is an award-winning Canadian poet, editor and educator, living in Toronto, who believes good art wakes us up, opens us up, and makes us more aware. “My poetry,” she says, “is always an attempt to go deeper, mostly into commonplace experiences….to find the still moment when a connection can be made, hopefully with poetic grace.” I think the poet achieves this remarkably well.
Maureen teaches personal narrative in creative writing at the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies. Her website can be found here.
I wanted to share this poem with you because it is amazing, but also because it is a fine example of how a beautiful new poem can be created by piggybacking off a line of someone else’s poem, as this one did. Maureen’s first line came from one poet’s poem, and her last line from another’s.
I thought this might be a fun idea for a prompt. For your challenge: Choose one line from this poem, or another poem of your choice. Make this line the first line of your new poem. Attribute the line borrowed to the appropriate source. Have fun!

“under the night sky she mounted a mare and rode”  one line from The Horses, the Sorrow,
the UmbilicusMaureen Hynes


“calling up grief”  one line from Ponte Dell’ Abbadia –Kathleen Fraser










16 thoughts on “CALLING UP GRIEF/imaginary gardens with real toads

  1. Annell, so good, I was riding with the young lady as she rode. “Calling up grief?” That’s akin to the ordinary “Looking for trouble.” And indeed she was. You picked a nice one for your finishing line.
    That is a pet peeve of mine, the parents who let their children out alone on bikes or running, or on horseback. I would arrest those parents if trouble did come. Aside, I also started my writing with that line, “under the night sky she mounted …” It lends itself to further action in the nature of “then what” question.
    And don’t you just love Maureen’s write in the writing even though it is sooo sad in content? Poor soul.

    1. I thought it to be some kind of gothic tale, and the “calling up grief,” some kind of ritual that humans do, death does not come easy. Thanks for you comment, Jim. Annell Livingston


  2. kaykuala

    Her urge to ride
    Could come at any time
    Was not limited
    To the dead of winter

    That may be the result of being too sheltered and protected that one throws it to the winds not being careful of the outcome!


    1. It certainly could be? I think, “calling up grief,” is some kind of ritual, that people do, when they lose the ones they love…it can be different with each person. Thanks for your comments, Hank. Annell Livingston


  3. Calling up grief is something we do because we cannnot let go, wanting to relive those joyous moments that are no more. Beautifully written Annell.

    1. “Letting go,” ain’t easy, I would say for most of us humans, death just isn’t easy…we search for rituals that help us to accept. Thanks for your comment. Annell Livingston


  4. The last line is the perfect conclusion to the whole.. I think we all know something of grief that makes us want to ride off into the sunset.

  5. New to Toads, having come here via dVerse folks, I found this prompt fascinating and the varied responses equally so. Calling Up Grief….there is a mystery here within your words. A young girl who rides her steed in the dark of night…perhaps in her dreams? Adn it need not be only the cold of winter (that season of death) — her grief could come at any time…a hurt….the loss of a friend….the death of someone….a cruel word? Does she ride into the night on her dreams to escape, or to call up the feelings she is trying to hide during the day? I found your poem fascinating and it had me jumping into “connections” and thoughts…
    Ah, I think that is sometimes the mark of a good writer….the ability to cause someone else to ponder.

    1. Lilian, your words are kind. I think I began to think of a gothic tale, from the line of Maureen’s poem. Then I opened il core: the heart/Kathleen Fraser, to a page, and took the last line of the poem, “calling up grief.” This made me think of rituals people have to help to accept loss. I am glad you enjoyed my little attempt to respond to the prompt. Annell Livingston


  6. I love the way you lassoed the line and gave the girl a horse to ride under the night sky, Annell! Lines that jumped out to me were:
    ‘Hurt would find her
    Like a spell
    Cast long ago’.

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