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Equus Caballus
Joel Nelson


I have run on middle fingernail through Eolithic morning,
I have 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, I have moved the nation’s mail.

I’ve made knights of lowly tribesmen and kings from ranks of peons.
I have 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, 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,
I have felt the hand of kindness from the losers and the sinners.
I have given for the cruel hand and given for the kind,
Heaved a sigh at Appomattox when surrender had been signed.

I can be as tough as hardened steel – as 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!


© by Joel Nelson.
Used here with the author’s permission.


Joel Nelson is a poet, horse trainer, Vietnam veteran, former custom saddle maker, and real, live cowboy. A sought-after performer at major cowboy poetry festivals, including the Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering, which he co-founded, Joel received a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 2009, and also served as poet-in-residence at Rothbury, Northumberland, England. His CD, The Breaker in the Pen (2000) was nominated for a Grammy Award. Joel lives with his wife on a 24,000-acre ranch outside Alpine, Texas, where they raise Corriente cattle.



Post New Comment:
Lori Levy:
Great portrayal of the horse.
Posted 12/13/2022 01:56 PM
Larry Schug:
Ya got a way with words, cowboy. Magnificent work.
Posted 12/13/2022 12:17 PM
The ASL sign for today is horse.
Posted 12/13/2022 09:35 AM
Wilda Morris:
Wow. A magnificent poem about a magnificent animal.
Posted 12/13/2022 08:45 AM
Darrell Arnold:
Joel is well respected in the cowboy world as a working cowboy, a horse trainer, and a deep and serious thinker. He is a favorite poet at all the gatherings, and he is a terrific and wonderful patriotic citizen of this country. God Bless Joel Nelson.
Posted 12/13/2022 08:36 AM

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