I was the only boy in Fifth Grade
in love with horses, reading Black Stallion books,
doodling appaloosas, palominos.
Late fall, indulging my equestrian dreams,
my mother drove her partner Carolyn
and me to a fancy dude ranch in Virginia.
The pillared mansion disappointed me,
more Civil War than Wild West, and I hated
the archery range, its targets on hay bales.
Yet I recall the joy of smelling hay
and horse manure, picking a mount to ride
but startled at how big he really was
and how my fantasies misled me, feeling
panic in the saddle when the gelding
bolted to a canter and I bounced,
clutching the pommel, until our guide rode up
and took the reins and calmed the frightened horse,
her words melodic: There, it’s all right, there.