The Horse Eater’s Children


public use arkansas share croppers

i can only go back

three generations

ten generations is your

pantheon of ancestors

i am short six generations

i can only go forward

maybe one day I can go

back across to the other

side of the graveyard in the

ocean if  my soul

can ever leave the

water but only if i go forward

i only know forward

i am the child of the horse eaters

that’s where i begin as far

back as i can go to the farm

where my grand mother took me

when my mother left me after

traveling down route 66 she

stopped to give birth migrated

on leaving my grandmother the

girl from the farm to claim me

before we went looking for her

traveling in the colored car on the

train clacking across the country

with lunch in a grease stained bag we

went to the horse eaters

it was near my birthday

or christmas some winter month with

snow i remember presents a car coat

warm with a hood a rocking chair with bells

ringing when you rocked i left it behind

but we took the car coat

hood on my head my face on

the train window steamed with

my breath as we clacked away

i wonder what happened to the chair

i wonder what happened to the land

when the children left the horse eaters

the children became

teachers real estate agents

they became nurses

accountants they

went to the city

perhaps they sold the farm

i was too little to know

but i remember the

tart sharp taste of horse

flesh remembered the

smell of the simmering meat

not the horses so much but

the meal they made know now

the promise they held fed

more than hunger

in the body they fed hunger

in the soul

souls that survived

to go to the city

to be other things to be

more than the horse

eaters could dream

of tilling and sowing with

lean harvest following

lean harvest followed

by leaner harvest

with growing children with

dreams of the city when the snow is on the

ground all you have is what you have

when the house is tarred to keep out the wind

rooms going straight back shotgun style

eating precious land that reluctantly yields

life but inside life is abundant

as are dreams in the

house the horse eaters are the children

of hunger they have climbed a steep

hill they have learned to hold on

they have buried their hope in the

ground they have held on

their children grow and they

pour their love into them

they hold on

you must hold on when life

wants to shake you out of it

you must hold on to what you

have if you want more

you must hold on to the land

wrested from blood sweat

on the steep side of the mountain

you must hold on or

the dreams will starve

once the taxes are paid once the tools are

repaired once the store is paid once all the

too many bills are paid once all

the labor spent is spent

all that remains is hunger

when the land won’t feed you

when it fights back refusing

to yield you must hold on

you must feed the dreams

the future has to eat

kill the livestock

all of it down to the horses

to feed the future’s

dreams gravy

grits full bellies

land that the future

will sell to

go to the city

without the land

we ate horses

to save