Your bones are long gone back to dust now.
Maybe even the durable patches of your brown
hair are now dissolved somewhere beneath
the rocks and dirt on the old Woodstown farm.
You pulled the shuttle cars under carbide lights
flickering off damp walls, low tubes gouged out
by blackfaced miners cutting carbon for
Hillman Coal & Coke. Maybe you even taught some
white-eyed workers who picked and blasted the
seams to throw off their harnesses like you did.
I loved you the first day you arrived. You taught
me that boys, like mine ponies, have power too,
just when I felt lost in a world of bosses. When
you used to quit your farmwork in midday, rearing
up like a wild western stallion, coming down with a
thud, feet planted like rocks in concrete, I was
awestruck with my power to rise up like you and
say to authority and systems, Ya Basta! Your
deliberate stepping across the traces taught me
subversion when head-on battles were not smart.
I staked you out in the best of grass, brought
you fresh water, curried your brown coat and
bedded you down on cold winter nights. Do you
remember how I saddled you up when we rode
through your old mining town, triumphant in
plain view of your former masters? Sure we had
to use the harness, pulling the 6 pronged
cultivator with me on your back and the old man
gripping, guiding the 2 handled contraption.
We tore the quack grass and thistles out of long
rows of corn that never seemed to end. Before
you, I sometimes pulled the damn thing myself.
But when you decided you had enough, mid-row,
you stopped and no curses or thrown stones
could make you move ... until you decided to
take out 2 rows galloping unshod and hell-bent
in our own Preakness, white wild eyes on the fence
at the hedgerow with a terrified boy on your back
but the terror left when I learned to fly with you
You’d clear that fence like a jumper in a british
steeplechase, leaving cultivator hung in the
barbwire and the old man cussing as we
outstripped the last flying stones. We rode the
freedom wind across the pastureland away to
the Miller farm thinking we'd never have to return
to the weight and labor of coal mines and farms.
Walk slowly down that long path, Bill. We’ll fly
again soon on new winds, without harness or bit.