Last year, long before I discovered horse racing, one of my daily e-mails from The Writer's Almanac included a poem by Norah Pollard, and I enjoyed it enough to track down one of her books. Eventually, I found a copy of Leaning In, a slim volume of tender verse about her family that was well worth the hunt. Her poems about her father are particularly moving -- and make for suitable Father's Day reading:
QUESTIONS I NEVER ASKED MY FATHERDon't we all wish Red Pollard could tell us about the horses?
Whatever possessed you to climb that first horse,
clutch his barrel with your skinny legs
and, hanging on to mane like mad,
steal that crazy ride across the carnival field
when you were ten and new to horses that same day?
What were you conspiring with them later
when you stole into their stalls,
the dark horses immense, breathing
and stomping in the dark,
rubbing their muzzles on your shoulder,
their wet breath crismal on your neck?
Did you think you would marry them?
Did you think you would mount their
roan backs and ride out your life in circles
under Santa Anita's big blue sky?
Did you make up your mind to become horse?
And years later during those golden races,
when you'd break from the gate
did you think of anything but the blood rhythm
of those hooves under colors,
the furious speed you governed with your hands?
Did you urge on your bay in tongues?
Down the homestretch, were you filled with sudden
love for the rider you were overtaking?
And later, in the shed-rows, with the grooms walking
the hots, rubbing them down,
in all that sweet smell of manure and hay and sweat,
what did they say to you, the horses?
What did the horses say?
Tell me about the horses.