Horseback Riding

John Philip Drury

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.

John Philip Drury is the author of four full-length poetry collections: Sea Level Rising (Able Muse Press, 2015), The Refugee Camp (Turning Point Books, 2011), Burning the Aspern Papers (Miami University Press, 2003), and The Disappearing Town (Miami University Press, 2000). He has also written Creating Poetry and The Poetry Dictionary, both published by Writers’ Digest Books. His poems have appeared in The Hudson Review, Poetry, The Southern Review, The American Poetry Review, and The Paris Review, which awarded one of his long poems the Bernard F. Conners Prize. Memoir chapters appeared in the Ploughshares Solos series, The Gettysburg Review, The Evansville Review, and Alligator Juniper. He teaches at the University of Cincinnati.