poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

About this Poem 

“Barry Lopez wrote somewhere that landscape is the culture that holds all of human culture. In my own writing, I’m obsessed with the real and imagined landscapes of rural Oregon, especially that hinterland where landscape and dreamscape flow in and out of each other. In the case of this poem, which is one section of a book-length meditation, I wanted to directly address the imagery, idea, and mythology of origin.”
Michael McGriff

Why I Am Obsessed with Horses

Because when I saw a horse
cross a river
separating two countries
and named it Ghost Rubble
it said No my name is 1935
because it also spoke in tongues
as it crossed the black tongue
of the water
because it still arcs through me
with its zodiac
of shrapnel-bright stars
because the river’s teeth
still gnash
against its flank
and its eyes
still have the luster
of black china
glowing black-bright
in the glass hutch of memory
because a horse’s skull
is a ditch of wildflowers
because a horse’s skull
is a box of numbers
a slop bucket
resting upside down
under barn eaves
wind in an empty stockyard
orange clay that breaks
shovel handles with a shrug
because a horse is the underwriter
of all motion
because a horse is the first
and last item
on every list
of every season
and because that night the air
smelled green as copper
and lath dust
and that night as it scrambled
up the bank and stamped past me
it said Unlike you
I am the source of all echoes.

Copyright © 2015 by Michael McGriff. Used with permission of the author.

Copyright © 2015 by Michael McGriff. Used with permission of the author.

Michael McGriff

Michael McGriff is the coauthor (with J. M. Tyree) of Our Secret Life in the Movies (A Strange Object, 2014) and the author of Early Hour (Copper Canyon Press, 2017), Black Postcards (Willow Springs Books, 2017), Home Burial (Copper Canyon Press, 2012), and Dismantling the Hills (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2008). He teaches creative writing at the University of Idaho.

by this poet


Two decommissioned highways cross
and continue toward their borders
with the casual certainty
the dead carry in their sample cases.
Leaning against the wind
I notice tufts of fur in the air
and a driveshaft rising from the sand,
then the horsehair of a violinist's bow