Horse at the Zoo

Mule, Michael Cabezas




Aged in the enclosed paddock,

bald-faced and balking,

face devoured with botflies, slab-sided,

shivers running over the flank.

Unsound. Blows harsh air from flared nostrils,

one hoof raised, longing for action

in his steady gaze.

A walk from under shelter to the middle of the cramped corral

and for a moment he is a foal, a yearling, weanling, colt,

thrifty, coat with a fresh blue roan, black and white, two-toned, pinto.


Unlikely in this gelding’s past

that his stockings pushed his feet forcefully into the ground,

left prints like little dishes, or worked up to a full blown gait

along the path of a race track.

He never felt the spring of each frog from the ground,

or the wind that surged through his bristly mane,

strides ahead of the other thoroughbreds,

who could leap any upright

in a perfect bascule,

or balance in a levade, picturesque.


He was not a bronco, mustang, canner, cob,

one who bucked and bolted, barefoot and cold-backed, reared,

who over-reached or dished,

never to be laden with flowers,

bought, sold, time and again.

Nor was he rosin-back, rig, a rogue,

an Andalusian, Arabian, Curly, Clydesdale,

Friesian or Hanoverian.

Not an equine from the manège, but one whose shoes were caked in mud.


At the rotting fence where my fingers cling,

the horse stares, tail flicking at flies.

He blows from his nostrils, muzzle quivering, forelock falling into his


There is no space to step back into,

lope and canter.

The dead grass is no track,

the saddle in the stable is dusty,

and I no gambler cheering in the stands.






About the Author

Caroline Breitbach · Loras College

Caroline Breitbach is a sophomore at Loras College where she is majoring in English Creative Writing and Media Studies.  She is also very involved in theatre, both at her school and in the community.  “Horse at the Zoo” first appeared in The Limestone Review.

About the Artist

Michael Cabezas · Virginia Commonwealth University

Mule first appeared in Amendment. 

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