Sunday, November 8, 2009

Inkhat Discusses Poetry as Poetry!

So, as a forward, publishers of poetry are really touchy about seeing the poem anywhere else. They hate simultaneous submissions, and rarely will you see something published more than one place, or a magazine that would even accept previously published things. In order to avoid anyone getting crabby, I don't make a habit of posting poetry online. However, this enormous poem was already published in a tiny tiny online magazine. It's so long, I don't think I'll have a chance to publish it anywhere else, and the editor of said magazine is totally cool with republication. So, now you can see the sort of thing I work on.

Eight Poems for Polo


In the beginning there were horses

and the worlds were devised

by their bodies alone;

a ground so they could gallop,

the sky to silhouette their manes.

Between was only the churning

of the planets around their flanks,

sucked in through flared nostrils

and out.

Of course they knew of the ball,

more solid than them and white,

like teeth, or the sharp crescent of a straining eye,

but they never chased it.

They ran because their friends were running.



women sway on gray horses,

leaning forward like poplars

over a still algae pond,

slim with fluttering hair

and gazing eyes.

In a rich garden with no snakes,

And no birds,

And no trees either.

Only a wide field where their men flit

Like white winged water bugs.

They wait for them to come,


All in white cotton and amber leather.

Later these women strip the long, red polo wraps

From the horse’s legs,

And wrap them into small soft balls;

hand them to their men, drinking,

Changed now, into darker clothes.


Everyone has played polo.

Your ancestors played polo.

If they did not physically swing the bamboo;

hear the crack of the willow root,

they felt, because everyone does

what it is to sit atop force and beauty,

and never absolutely have control.

They hurtled at a target

they could not be certain would remain

or they would be able to hit.

Your children will play polo.

There is nothing you can do to stop this.

Teach them to swing,

even cocksure, wide and wild,

striking the ground into explosion.


In Manipuri there is a polo god

Born in the waves of timeless hooves,

a tiny planetary body

rocketing through space.

There was chaos then

as the fancy grew into war;

a fountain of flesh and hair,

swinging arms and sharp feet,

momentous and dangerously free.

Then one pony turned

and saw in the ball what the people saw,

perhaps what it wanted,

to be perfect, balanced, and brightly colored.


A borrowed groom,

I cannot make the unfamiliar, freckled horse,

quit orbiting me, tireless and proud.

Try as I might to stand still,

I sway with the motion.

When his rider comes,

Our horses meet,

Leaping like startled water birds

From a green pond,

And the mallets bend like cattails

And clatter.

He and his rider are gone again,

and I am holding a new, used horse,

Sopping and panting,

Already turning circles around me

even as I drag her from the tide.


Intellectually perhaps

we understood how ancient the game was,

but it meant so much less than

hanging the steaming blankets,

reds, yellows, blues like a drawn sunset;

dipping frosted hands into buckets,

the ice already crawling across the puddles.

Silence, except for the swish of thin horse tails;

the dust hanging like wind chimes,

Perhaps there is perfection in the end,

In the antique art of cleaning leather,

sponges in slow circles of preservation,




The bit was a surprise,

the saddle, with its wooden spine,

spider webs of leather,

beneath and between their legs

over, around their neck,

their fluttering ears

thick, flat foreheads.

Their tail was braided and taped.

Their legs were wrapped in red cloth,

and buckled rubber sheets.

It all seemed like so much fuss

to do what they were made for,

to fling one hoof before the other,

to carry that strange and careful being

who knew what to do.


In the hollow pavilion

after the crowds and professionals,

even the ice cream vendors,

have gone to their personal comforts

we remain, we grooms and trainers,

we cleaners and carriers.

We run silently round and round the ring

Playing in sandals and ruined boots and barefoot,

falling to our hands and knees,

driving the pounded sand into our skin,

with sticks, a soccer ball,

and speechless joy.

The horses, even, are sleeping.

The ball arches over our heads

and hands and mallets,

disappears over the wall

with a soft echo of conclusion.

1 comment:

  1. It's ORANGE Fesitaware that was