Colleen J. McElroy

Breaking Wild Horses


When romance walked in
there were too many fatal secrets
hiding in sheltered places.
We tried reining them in
corralling their savage cries
for attention – nothing seemed
to hold them at bay especially
as night broke the skyline
with the first signs of morning
and our guards were down —
our fences rattling with weakness
the whinny and stomping
of half remembered injuries
and families scabbed over.
We fussed with the images
trying to tidy them into civil
obedience – read how others
had calmed their unruliness
as they nuzzled soft places
left trails of rancid breath
flicked debris into the room (onto the table).
When romance moved on
the old nags came closer to the house
chewed on the lace curtains.
We couldn’t just put them down
not after they had been around
so long and carried so much baggage.
So we groomed them
trotted them out for prizes
boasted about their origins —
how difficult it had been to finally
keep them away from our comings
and goings – herded them into a far field
where their passing might go unnoticed
where even weeds bloomed in colors.


By permission of the author.  © Copyright 2012.


Colleen J. McElroy lives in Seattle, Washington where she is a Professor Emeritus at the University of Washington, and served as Editor-in-chief of the Seattle Review from 1995-2006. McElroy’s collection of poems include most recently, Sleeping with the Moon (2007), for which she received a 2008 PEN/Oakland National Literary Award. Her latest collections of creative non-fiction include: A Long Way From St. Louie (travel memoirs), and Over the Lip of the World: Among the Storytellers of Madagascar (finalist in the 2000 PEN USA Research-based Creative Nonfiction category). Winner of the Before Columbus American Book Award, she also has received two Fulbright Fellowships, two NEA Fellowships, a DuPont Fellowship, and a Rockefeller Fellowship. Her work has been translated into Russian, Italian, Arabic, Greek, French, German, Malay, and Serbo-Croatian. McElroy’s ninth collection of poetry, Here I Throw Down My Heart, will be published by the University of Pittsburgh Press in 2012.

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