The Riding Lesson

The Riding Lesson

by Kimberly Beer

It begins the first time
her tiny fingers
wrap around the reins,
commanding power
far beyond her years
and weight twenty times
her measure.

The leather is worn,
dark and dirty brown,
but still fully alive,
its essence sweetened
with the sweat of
a hundred horses.

The bay gelding
with the deep set eyes
feels the small tug
on the bit in his mouth,
feels the subtle shift
of weight on his back.
He lifts his head,
readies himself,
searches for the feel
of the cotton lead rope
in the hands of the teacher
to give him direction,
but it is not there,
horse and rider have been
released, freed by
the wisdom of
the teacher
to be on their own.
A gift is exchanged
in that moment,
a communion,
a scared endowment
between three beings,
teacher, student, horse.

In the years to come,
she may leave the barn,
forget how to cinch
a saddle, omit buckets,
blankets and stall picks
from her life,
but she will never
lose this moment,
and in her darkest
hours — those days
when life whips her
to the breaking point,
she will return here,
to the smell of
horse sweat and sweet feed,
to the feel of the reins
in her hands and,
if she has learned well
her riding lesson,
she will be able to
rise above her challenges,
sit tall in the saddle,
and command her life.

The Farmer’s Wife

The Farmer’s Wife

When he slips from their bed
at a quarter past four
on a cold winter morning
he will find the coffee already made
his coveralls warm
straight from the dryer waiting
by his boots in the mud room.
At dark, he will come in to find her
by the wood stove
dinner on the table
waiting with a smile.

In the spring, she will plant his life
with children and love
She will balance his books
consorting with tax man and banker
to find money where there is none
for a tractor
for a planter
for the combine
that will steal her man
on all the best fall nights.

In the summer, she will be consummate with the cows
have command of the bull
be up with the chickens
control the farm dog with only a look
she will feed cake as well as bake it
salt the heifers along with the bread
she will mend fences
grease mowers
harvest blackberries for a cobbler.

In the fall, she will know how to drive
the things that needs driven
the feed truck
the grain truck
the rake
the baler
the bulldozer
and she will meet him, willing
at the edge of the field after
she has worked a day full of her own
climb into the cab and
steer all night if she needs to.

She will wait patient as a corn stalk
for the rain to talk to him
about the kids
about the money
about the part for the plow
about what she needs
that which she will express in a way
that will keep him in bed
long past dawn on the sweet dark morning
while the crops and the grass
take in life from a cloud
she will drink in his essence
refill her soul
replenish his being
letting the seasons and the coffee wait.

My Missouri Love

My Missouri Love

I want a love that is stout
strong as southern born whiskey
deep and smooth and warm
enough to push out the winter chill
able to lend the perfect glow
to a summer night on the lake
I want to drink it from a thick
glass bottle that can be handled,
dropped, without getting broken
by life’s crazy intoxications

I want a love that is rugged
tough as a 4 wheel drive pickup
built to thrive in dirt and gravel
nimble in the muddy mire of chaos
able to wear its scratches and dents
with honor as it tows anything
life can place upon its hitch
I want to drive it without reservation
because I know the miles won’t matter
its value is in its tenacity

I want a love with a open heart
wide and accepting as an Ozark prairie pasture
And it is in this expanse that I want to be loved
as much in the rain as in the sunshine
Because it is here we will find our peace
and our happiness can fly
like a hawk confident on the current.

I know no love can be flawless
we are too flawed,
but I want to find that optimal marring,
a love, that like Missouri,
is beautifully unideal
perfect in its imperfection.

The Other Dog

The Other Dog

The stud dog was a mangey mongrel
crawled under his fence in the middle of the night
caught the bitch in heat
who had slipped her leash
when they weren’t looking.

They should have drown the pup at birth
but it wagged its tail and breathed
on them with puppy breath
so they let it stay
scratched it behind the ears
rubbed its belly and
gave it chew toys
and good kibble
that made the bitch boil.

They taught it tricks
that thrilled onlookers
sit pretty
retrieve
roll over
heel
just don’t do it better
than the bitch herself
don’t make her lift her lip
if she snaps there will be hell to pay
play dead.

Then it happened
the cuteness wore off
it started chewing up
the toys they bought it
peed on the rug where
the bitch took her naps
ate too much
barked too loud
got too stinky to pet
wagged its tail and broke the lamp.

So they bought a choke chain
and a crate
and fenced the yard
and taught the pup how
to be a bad dog
let her feel the sting of the boot
and when that didn’t work
they spayed her passion
bought a log chain
and tied her out
the weight so heavy around her neck.

Bite down on your needs
choke on your love
shallow your talents
lick your own wounds
dig a big hole
at the far reach of your bond
and strangle as you fold yourself into it.

If they can’t find you
they can’t hurt you
hide
under the sofa
under the bed
don’t ask to be petted
or the bitch will bite you
pin you by the neck
with her jaws
she’ll use her teeth
but she won’t have to sleep in the backyard
she’ll climb in the bed
while you sit on the porch of your doghouse
in the rain
not allowed on the good furniture.

Don’t howl or you’ll be banished to the barn.
Don’t whine or you’ll be called
a traitor to your breed.

So you try
to be obedient
follow the bitch at her heels
but no closer
and only when she asks

You become 
house broke
trained
not to ruin rugs
not to roll in shit
to be unseen
to be unheard
good enough to lie at her feet
belly exposed
waiting for the snarl to turn
to the bite that draws blood.

Mane

Mane

by Kimberly Beer

The revelation to
your deepest secrets
can be found
in the mane
of a horse,
each tangle
an unraveling
of a question
you didn’t even know
how to ask.