Strange portal, this phone in my hand.
I’m suddenly watching a horse in labor,
terror in her eyes, gray-haired farmer
behind her, still-bagged hooves in his
hands. His wife holds the mare’s head,
son stands by waiting to be told what
to do, daughter films it all on her phone.
First birth, mare too tight, foal too big,
the blue-white bag farmer holds on to
disappears back inside. I didn’t ask for
this. From the looks of things, the mare
didn’t either. Yet here we both are, and
I’ll be damned if I’ll leave this heaving
beast or what’s inside her fighting to get
out. Or this farmer still holding on to a
pair of suddenly long legs, good lord!
Horse totem tells us how we might tame
our own wild energy, how we might ride
wind freely. Here, horse still tethered to
horse, foal bursting free from the mare?
Energy begets energy, opposite of paired
opposites, poem begets poem, torn from
us line by line. The family, still in their pj’s,
have all changed places, all but the dad
helped now by wife now holding this head,
this ever-elongating new body, while son
holds the phone, daughter tells mare in a
soothing tone what a fine job she’s doing.
I almost believe her. When the foal fully
born lies naked on its own, they turn horse
around, lead her to see what’s she’s done.
Horse stares, fully unable to comprehend
anything, and the daughter soothes and
soothes and leads her nose down to what
she still wants nothing to do with. Farmer
dad, familiar with the process, concerned
and bemused and still so patient, reaches
to drag the foal to a cleaner patch of straw.
Daughter leads horse over, soothes oothe
soothe, guides her nose down and tongue
flicks out, flared nostrils sniff, uncertain
still. It takes time for mare to see this
not-yet-wild horse spirit for what it is:
part of her. Heart unbound, spirit made
flesh. When her tongue remembers what
it’s supposed to do, lick and taste and
clean, the family backs slowly away,
clearing the stall. Horse and new-horse
know what to do. This was supposed
to happen, I eventually learn. The mare
really was too tight. The foal really was
unfathomably long. They really did need
help from someone who’d seen it before,
who knew how to coax new life in, how
to teach the beast so reluctant to let go
that everything could be okay. How nice
of the family to turn off their phone once
what they’d witnessed was normal again
and sweet, just that one last glimpse of
mother and child so tender together. We
need not see so much of that. We know
how things are supposed to be when all
goes right with the world. What we’re not
so good at, what we need how to learn, is
how to witness pain, see struggle, see
even this wild terror, this difficult birthing,
see what comes of it, see what, once
fathomed, we can learn how to love.
Paula J. Lambert is a literary and visual artist from Columbus, Ohio, widely recognized for her creative work. Author of several collections of poetry, she has received two grants from the Ohio Arts Council, including a 2020 Individual Excellence Award for poetry. She has received two Greater Columbus Arts Council AITC Grants and has twice been resident of the Virginia Center for Creative Arts. Lambert owns Full/Crescent Press, a small publisher of poetry books and broadsides, through which she has founded numerous public readings supporting the intersection of poetry and science, including the Sun & Moon Poetry Festival. Learn more at http://www.paulajlambert.com.