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 Artist
Michael Cabezas · Virginia Commonwealth University
Mule first appeared in Amendment.