About the Animals

There is no shortage of poems about the animals that resided at Pobiz Farm over the decades and, coincidentally, photos of the animals. The dogs ruled the roost and lived the life of Riley, all of them rescued from uncertain futures. The horses had acres of rolling fields to graze and kick up their heels, while having the shelter of an ancient barn built into the hill to protect them from the elements. Below is a sampling of those poems.



    (from Connecting the Dots, W.W. Norton, 1996)

    I was the last of my line,
    farm-raised, chesty, and bold.
    Not one of your flawless show-world
    forty-five pound Dalmations.
    I ran with the horses, my darlings.

    I loped at their heels, mile
    for mile, swam rivers they forded
    wet to the belly. I guarded
    them grazing, haloed in flies.
    Their smell became my smell.

    Joyous I ate their manure.
    Its undigested oats
    still sweet, kept me fit.
    I slept curled at the flank
    of the fiercest broodmare.

    We lay, a study in snores
    ear flicks and farts in her stall
    until she came to the brink,
    the birth hour of her foal.
    Then, she shunned me cruelly.

    Spring and fall I erred over
    and over. Skunks were my folly.
    Then, I was nobody’s lover.
    I rolled in dung and sand.
    When my heart burst in the pond,

    my body sank and then rose
    like a birch log, a blaze
    of white against spring green.
    Now I lie under the grasses
    they crop, my own swift horses

    who start up and spook in the rain
    without me, the warm summer rain.



    (from Where I Live – New & Selected Poems 1990-2010, W.W. Norton, 2010)

    Some days the pond
    wears a glaze of yellow pollen.

    Some days it is clean-swept.
    The trout leap up, feasting on insects.

    A modest size, it sits
    like a soup tureen in a surround of white

    pine where Rosie, 14 lbs., some sort
    of rescued terrier, part bat

    (the ears), part anteater (the nose),
    shyly paddles in the shallows

    for salamanders, frogs
    and little painted turtles. She logged

    ten years down south in a kennel, secured
    in a crate at night. Her heart murmur

    will carry her off, no one can say when.
    Meanwhile she is rapt in

    the moment, our hearts leap up observing.
    Dogs live in the moment, pursuing

    that brilliant dragonfly called pleasure.
    Only we, sunstruck in this azure

    day, must drag along the backpacks
    of our past, must peer into the bottom muck

    of what’s to come, scanning the plot
    for words that say another year, or not.

  • JACK


    (from Jack and Other New Poems,, W.W. Norton, 2005)

    How pleasant the yellow butter
    melting on white kernels, the meniscus
    of red wine that coats the inside of our goblets

    where we sit with sturdy friends as old as we are
    after shucking the garden’s last Silver Queen
    and setting husks and stalks aside for the horses

    the last two of our lives, still noble to look upon:
    our first foal, now a bossy mare of 28
    which calibrates to 84 in people years

    and my chestnut gelding, not exactly a youngster
    at 22. Every year, the end of summer
    lazy and golden, invites grief and regret:

    suddenly it’s 1980, winter batters us,
    winds strike the cruelty out of Dickens. Somehow
    we have seven horses for six stalls. One of them,

    a big-nosed road gelding, calm as a president’s portrait
    lives in the rectangle that leads to the stalls. We call it
    the motel lobby. Wise old campaigner, he dunks his

    hay in the water bucket to soften it, then visits the others
    who hang their heads over their Dutch doors. Sometimes
    he sprawls out flat in his commodious quarters.

    That spring, in the bustle of grooming
    and riding and shoeing, I remember I let him go
    to a neighbor I thought was a friend, and the following

    fall she sold him down the river. I meant to
    but never did go looking for him, to buy him back
    and now my old guilt is flooding this twilit table

    my guilt is ghosting the candles that pale us to skeletons
    the ones we must all become in an as yet unspecified order.
    Oh Jack, tethered in what rough stall alone

    did you remember that one good winter?



    (from Still to Mow, W.W. Norton, 2007)

    He came, a dog auspiciously named Virgil,
    homeless, of unknown breed but clearly hound
    barking at scents, aroused by hot ones to bugle.
    His first week here he brought three squirrels to ground
    and lined their mangled corpses up on the grass
    to be—why not?—admired before burial.
    He gobbled the snottiest tissues from the trash.
    Also, he swiped our lunches off the table.
    He knew not sit or stay, has still to take in
    that chasing sheep and horses is forbidden.
    When reprimanded, he grovels, penitent.
    He longs for love with all his poet’s soul.
          His eyebrows make him look intelligent.
          We save our choicest food scraps for his bowl.



    (from Still to Mow, W.W. Norton, 2007)

    Is it my fault I’m part rat terrier, part
    the kind of dog who lives in a lady’s lap?
    I didn’t ask to be bottom mutt in the pack
    that runs untamed through the twisted trash-strewn streets
    in Xochiapulcho, I didn’t ask to be plucked
    up by a pair of gringos. First, they took
    away my manhood. No more sweet reek
    of bitches, no hot pursuits, no garbage rot.
    When they packed up to go back to the USA
    I thought they’d cry, then dump me out, but no.
    Macho mestizo, my entry papers say.
    Who dines in style and sleeps the sleep of kings
    ought dream no more of his rowdy half-starved days. . .
    I dwell in heaven but without the wings.



    (from Where I Live – New & Selected Poems 1990-2010, W.W. Norton, 2010)

    Praise Be
    as in Praise be, it’s a filly

    and Hallelujah
    as in Hallelujah, it’s another filly

    are middle-aged mares now.
    Their dam Boomer is ancient.

    She is the daughter of Taboo,
    former slave in

    a drug scam running
    cocaine from Miami

    to Boston under
    the trailer’s floorboards.

    When the state
    sold her to the slaughterer

    we bought her back
    for 30 cents a pound and

    bred her to a little
    Arabian stud with a clubfoot.

    33 years later,
    Boomer has a metabolic

    end-of-life disease.
    We’ll give her one

    last summer on grass,
    the vet said cheerfully,

    stroking her mane.
    Pick out a good place

    to dig the hole.

    Boomer is sleek,
    Gleams like a waxed

    Mercedes. Canters
    uphill to pasture,

    trots down.
    I try to imagine

    the sweet tasseled fields
    without her,

    the blind glass of midnight
    without her

    peremptory whinies
    to summon the others

    when lightning
    shatters it,

    the way
    the little herd will

    close around her absence,
    the way they’ll go

    on grazing, mouths slobber-
    full of the last clover.



    (from Where I Live – New & Selected Poems 1990-2010, W.W. Norton, 2010)

    After the year of come-and-go nosebleeds, after
    daily washing mucousy blood from his forelegs and flanks
    where he swiped himself clean in his impatient horsey way,
    I saw the tumor sprout waxy and white
    out of one nostril and dangle there, a rare fruit.
    Truth rose in my mouth, a drench of gall and wormwood
    and I sent for the vet and the backhoe driver
    who came together like football coaches conferring.

    The vet patted and praised him as she entered the stall
    he was born in twenty-six years ago and staggered to his feet
    with only a few false lunges in the predawn black and suckled
    in small audible gulps from his warm mother. After
    she got a line into his neck vein—he jittered a little the way
    he’d always pulled back from the needle—
    she started the sleep med and I stood with him feeding
    him apple slices slowly making them last and when

    his head drooped I led him out into the paddock and she shot
    the syringe full of pentobard into his vein. He dropped
    with a thud, a slain king, and by then the backhoe had torn
    the earth open, the driver deep in the hole raising
    icebox-size boulders and deftly arranging them in a row,
    scooping red dirt as the late afternoon sun winked out
    behind the treeline and after he finished the grave he went
    downhill to fit the forks on the front of his machine and by then

    I could hardly see as he hoisted the great swaying body aloft
    and bore it across the road to the hole and in the cold dark I poured
    a libation of apple juice for the earth to welcome his corpse—
    some drops spilled on his chestnut flank and some dribbled
    on his cheek and splashed onto his yellow teeth as he lay
    deep on one side and my hand shook—I could hardly see—
    rocking my grief back and forth over this kind death
    the taste of apple wasting in his mouth.