The Horses, the Sorrow,
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 Umbilicus—Maureen Hynes
“calling up grief” one line from Ponte Dell’ Abbadia –Kathleen Fraser