Monday Minstrel: Poem by Donald Hall. “Name of Horses.”

All winter your brute shoulders strained against collars, padding 
and steerhide over the ash hames, to haul 
sledges of cordwood for drying through spring and summer, 
for the Glenwood stove next winter, and for the simmering range.

In April you pulled cartloads of manure to spread on the fields, 
dark manure of Holsteins, and knobs of your own clustered with oats.
All summer you mowed the grass in meadow and hayfield, the mowing machine 
clacketing beside you, while the sun walked high in the morning;

and after noon’s heat, you pulled a clawed rake through the same acres, 
gathering stacks, and dragged the wagon from stack to stack, 
and the built hayrack back, uphill to the chaffy barn, 
three loads of hay a day from standing grass in the morning.

Sundays you trotted the two miles to church with the light load 
a leather quartertop buggy, and grazed in the sound of hymns. 
Generation on generation, your neck rubbed the windowsill 
of the stall, smoothing the wood as the sea smooths glass.

When you were old and lame, when your shoulders hurt bending to graze,
one October the man, who fed you and kept you, and harnessed you every morning,
led you through corn stubble to sandy ground above Eagle Pond,
and dug a hole beside you where you stood shuddering in your skin,

and lay the shotgun’s muzzle in the boneless hollow behind your ear,
and fired the slug into your brain, and felled you into your grave, 
shoveling sand to cover you, setting goldenrod upright above you,
where by next summer a dent in the ground made your monument.

For a hundred and fifty years, in the Pasture of dead horses,
roots of pine trees pushed through the pale curves of your ribs,
yellow blossoms flourished above you in autumn, and in winter
frost heaved your bones in the ground – old toilers, soil makers.


Donald Hall was a former Poet Laureate of the United States. His writing focused on his beloved rural New England . He died in June 2018, at age 89.

14 Comments Add yours

  1. Jeff Rab says:

    Wow! Deep and descriptive poem!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Indeed. Thanks for commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I know it’s necessary but oh the heart pain.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Yes it is heart pain. You have put that very well.


  3. Truly an (he)artistic homage to those horse loves in our lives.
    Better still from a former Poet Laureate with rural roots, who also knew what he was writing about.
    Thanks for this bit, Leueen.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Juli Hoffman says:

    So sad!!! It’s hard to let go of our horse friends. I’ve had to let go of a few horse friends over the years. (Sniff!) Always in my heart, though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      It is a heartbreaker! I have thought about how the farmer dispatched this workhorse and reflected that although it may seem harsh it is just as quick, maybe quicker, that the vets needles.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Juli Hoffman says:

        If done right, absolutely! Better than letting them suffer. (I’ve seen that too. The bigger they are, the more magnified the pain.)

        Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Yes it is but horses do not live as long as us and the farmer has given him a good end rather than letting him suffer.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Emma Cownie says:

        Fair enough! It’s because they are such large animals that the preparing of a hole before they are put to sleep seems a bit brutal, but obviously very necessary.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. anne leueen says:

        Yes it is grim. I’ve had to have a few horses put down and as they are so big, even without the hole already dug, it is still very hard to see them go down. It has broken my heart to see it. But i have felt it was important to be there with them at the end.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Emma Cownie says:

        That’s true of all pets, its important (but tough) to be there at the end for them.

        Liked by 1 person

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