' The Horse Tamer

Michael Salcman


Outside Montevideo,
Martin Hardoy enters the ring
and performs a sort of magic trick
by tying an unshod horse to a stake;
he vows to break her
not with force but by letting go.
I can't understand how this will be done,
the roan must know it's a type of prey,
its parallel eyes unable to see
the predatory gaucho who approaches
from her blind side,
letting his body lightly lean
against her shivering haunch.
If he comes from in front,
she retreats,
from behind, advances,
so attacking obliquely
he must keep the bridle taut until
her four shivering legs move as one;
then the braided rope goes loose in his hand,
his gift to her
a momentary absence of tension.
An hour later, he wraps a rubber tape
on her left foreleg
and gentles the horse to the ground,
the wildness in her eye supplanted
by a terrible confusion:
she's overcome and pretends to chew
without any food in her mouth.
I fear she will crack his skull
with a flailing hoof, but he feels no alarm.
Almost tame now, she turns her belly up,
like a zebra at the side of a lion
ready to die, entering a final calm.

Michael Salcman served as chairman of neurosurgery at the University of Maryland and president of the Contemporary Museum in Baltimore. Special Lecturer in the Osher Institute at Towson University, he lectures widely on art and the brain, including The Knowledge Network of The New York Times. His recent poems appear in Alaska Quarterly Review, Harvard Review, Hopkins Review, New Letters, Notre Dame Review, Ontario Review, Raritan, and New York Quarterly. Featured on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily and All Things Considered, his work has received five nominations for a Pushcart Prize. He is the author of four chapbooks and two collections, The Clock Made of Confetti (Orchises, 2007), nominated for The Poets' Prize in 2009 and a Finalist for The Towson University Prize in Literature, and The Enemy of Good Is Better (Orchises, 2011). His anthology of classic and contemporary poems on doctors and diseases is forthcoming. "The Horse Tamer" originally appeared in Cadence of Hooves: A Celebration of Horses (Yarroway Mountain Press, 2008).

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