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Sample Poems by Julia Wendell

The First Time

The first time I saw a horse race--
All steam & speed & spinning arcs
Of delicate arms & muscles & bones,
A score of front legs digging into turf & tucking up
The exact moment hind legs thrust under bellies
And pushed off, three beats barely one times twelve
Blurred shapes all willed by the heart to get there first—
I knew I would never leave this animal.

The race, the before & the hush
In the quiet after,
Relaxed backs & rumps turned
To us, their various pastels
Melding with the sky.

How does the horse know
To stick his nose out front to touch the wire
& win by a shadowy inch?
What makes us court perfection?--

The peculiar thing that makes us love & last.

In the Shade of Wings

The drunk in a pool hall off 49th and Broadway knows,
And so does the elegant young dancer
In a frenzy of pirouettes, who trips & falls
In Act II of Giselle:
The body knows its limitations.

A famous horse strains, twists & falls
In the last stretch of his career.
He will have to be shot, his taut
Chestnut haunch quivering,
Eyes rolled back, sensing failure.

My neighbor
Who has his left arm in a sling
Keels patiently beside his house
Laying bricks, of all things.
It seems nothing will stop him.

Through the haze of first-waking,
I read of that jet failing its sky,
Of the young survivor and the hundred
Who didn’t . . . a child locked in her charred
Mother’s arms, terrified but alive.

Tonight, running cold water into the bowl
Of my hands, I lifted what I could to my face,
And for no reason other than I breathed
I blessed myself in my limitations
And absolved my own small delays.

From an Abandoned Farm

Most everything’s missing
that used to be, but
Once a colt has touched down,
nursed, been weaned, broken,
& taken away,
a part of its heaven stays here,
never gets sold.
I’ll tell you
how I watch another morning
begin, wandering from ghost to ghost barn,
before we say the words that remind us
we, too, are broken, hanging up,
refusing good byes,
because there aren’t any
for a mother & father who have fallen
out of love.

Hello, Husband

"Talk to her," he says, as she ignores
my stiff left heel, my tense
right hand that doesn't quite know
what to do anymore with something so young.
I want to sink into the saddle when she breaks to the trot--
impatient, my boots kick back.
He tells me to ride into the violet.

But sometimes, colors aren't enough, sometimes
I feel the noisy years
breaking under me,
and I can't start a conversation
with anything other than hello.

"Hello," I say. Hello apples, chestnuts,
heartwood, husband I can't seem to convince
I love. Hello violet afternoons of never enough,
Hello I say to this man not-my-own,
then to his disobedient mare, jet-black and not
yet bleached by the sun,
but married to the shade that accumulates
under the darkening-to-violet sky, color
of the quiet a young horse feels
when not too much in her world has yet gone wrong.