The old gelding’s eye sockets are hollow
or maybe he’s pulled his gaze inward. Once
a trumpet blast of a colt, now he rocks back
on a hip, withers peaked high. His rebar
spine exposed to the crest of his tail. He
favors that thicker knee. Is he happy?
If it matters to this stoic horse, he doesn’t
show it. Ears pinned, he defends his hay in
a solitary pen. Mid-morning he drags hooves
to open ground, neck stretched long, seeking
the warmest soil. One hind hoof steps under,
the other teeters, joining to keep balance.
The gelding turns a step as his steely back
arches, his haunches vibrating. He crouches
but takes one more turning step. The arthritic
knee can’t bear the weight, so the other takes
the extra burden. Every worn-out part of his
body compensates for something else worn-out.
For a quivering paused moment he tenses to
hold himself. He means to lower his body but
muscles have wasted away. His crouch goes
deeper and still he holds. Craving the ground
but resisting the fall, until he can’t. Dropping
hard, he releases a moan from some place gone
dark. Some place that remembers a lusty gallop.
A tick of relief in the friction of a roll but it’s
not safe on the ground. Anxious prey, he labors
back up on brittle legs. If this old gelding roamed
free, a predator would have claimed him long
ago. Instead he lives in limbo, never running
but still breathing. Lives in limbo, under the
appraising eye of a predator …who loves him.