Hoofprints: Horse Poemsby Jessie Haas
“We have all been changed by the horse, for better and worse.” —Jessie Haas
Jessie Haas travels back sixty-five million years—from 5000 BCE to the present day—in 104/b>
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A VOYA Poetry Pick: Award-winning author Jessie Haas takes readers on a ride back in time to celebrate the special bond between horses and humans
“We have all been changed by the horse, for better and worse.” —Jessie Haas
Jessie Haas travels back sixty-five million years—from 5000 BCE to the present day—in 104 poems about our equine friends.
Horses have shared some of the most significant moments in human history. In these lyrical and poignant pieces—some written from the horse’s point of view—readers will meet chariot racers, knights’ steeds, horse whisperers, even Pegasus, the winged horse. In one moving poem, a compassionate colt befriends a lonely man; in another, a starving soldier shares a meal with his mount. Whether it’s the thundering herd of Genghis Khan or a Dutch farmer shielding his horse from the Nazis, these transportive free-verse poems reveal how horses have influenced and enriched our lives. Hoofprints is an awe-inspiring journey through history as we gallop alongside horse and rider and experience “the mid-air moment” when “everything may yet / turn out all right.”
This ebook includes a bibliography and a glossary of equine terminology.
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Read an Excerpt
By Jessie Haas
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2004 Jessie Haas
All rights reserved.
Ride Back with Me
ride back with me.
You take the Thoroughbred you have lessons on;
I'll ride my fat Morgan.
We'll travel past buckboard wagons, buffalo hunts,
and every sort of infidel invader.
We'll skirt the edge of battlefields,
follow the tinkling bells of pack trains.
Cling as your mount changes beneath you—
hack, charger, destrier, rouncy, pad.
The stirrups will drop away,
the girths will snap—
At last we'll ride dun ponies,
along the rims of glaciers.
While they are horses we will ride them.
Then we'll get off and walk,
45 million years or so,
our brown-spotted companions
pattering beside us,
on an ever-increasing number
How the World Makes Horses
She drives the continents apart.
She heats and wets and dries and cools the land,
Makes winter, summer, rainfall, grass.
Then out of a nub of guinea pig—like flesh
She spins her long fantastic thread,
Pulling and twisting and whirling.
She sets up land-bridges,
Spills her animals across,
Walls them behind ice,
Islands them, and isthmuses, and peninsulas them,
And reconnects when they are stubby ponies
Or tall dry desert runners;
Combines the separate kinds she has created,
Throws away ninety-five percent,
Preserves the remnant on a whim,
And twines them at last with the human-thread
She has been simultaneously spinning
To create a two-ply
Of considerable strength.
There were dinosaurs still.
Whales ran over the earth like foxes,
and everywhere strange blunt creatures—
wolves with squared-off jaws,
ran and ate and roared and grunted.
No word had yet been spoken,
and if some thinker had a thought
we have not learned to recognize it.
In the bushes hid
a little brown animal,
call her the Grandmother.
Grandmother of horses.
The Grandmother hid among jungle leaves,
and ate them.
She padded softly on soft ground.
Mud squeezed between her toes.
She couldn't see far—
just far enough.
Couldn't run fast—
just fast enough.
The world changes slowly, but it always changes.
A cool wind blowing, not as much rain.
Tomorrow it's colder, only a sprinkle.
Nowhere to hide.
65 MILLION YEARS AGO TO 1.5 MILLION YEARS AGO, NORTH AMERICA
I Just Wonder
Were they pretty?
Did they shine?
Were they plump,
Or sleek and fine?
Were they striped
Or were they spotted?
Did they smell nice?
And what sound
Did their paws make
On the ground?
Did they squabble?
In a fight
Did they kick,
Or scratch and bite?
Did they squeal
Like colts and fillies?
Were they playful?
Were they silly?
They lived very
Still, I hope
Someday we'll know.
60 MILLION YEARS AGO TO 1 MILLION YEARS AGO, NORTH AMERICA, EUROPE, AND ASIA
This video moves so slowly
that motion is impossible
The growth of a sequoia is rapid
Speed the tape up to make sense of it.
A short-faced berry eater
runs out of berries,
switches to leaves.
The trees thin.
She drops her head to graze.
Grass screens her eyes.
Is something sneaking?
Her face lengthens.
Her eyes widen,
as if in a cartoon,
and migrate to the sides.
Large and dark, perpetually shocked,
they brim above the grass-tops.
The foot beside her quickly cropping muzzle
is not the same foot she began with.
The paw that tracked soft forest floors
has only three toes now;
the middle one bears the weight.
When she thinks she hears a sound
that hard hoof spurns hard earth,
and she's halfway across the prairie
with her herd.
Now adjust the audio frequency.
There is a sound,
It booms and grumbles through the ground
like the voices of elephants, miles apart.
We do not hear it with our ears.
Our bare feet barely catch
a small vibration.
Do not expect to understand.
The word is long and spoken slow
and we are only partway through
60 MILLION YEARS AGO TO TODAY, NORTH AMERICA
It's Alimentary: PowerPoint Presentation by Miohippus, late Oligocene Epoch
There are only so many things to eat in the world,
and several competitors for each.
As we start to feel the pinch,
I'd like to propose a bold strategy.
If you'd dim the lights, please?
It's all about cellulose—
which, I don't need to remind you,
is the main ingredient of leaves and grass.
The bad news?
We can't digest it without fermentation.
The good news?
Neither can the competition.
But reports indicate they're using a new strategy:
Believe it or not, they chew, swallow,
ferment their food for a couple of hours
in a couple of stomachs—they have four!—
then burp it up and chew again.
but it makes pretty efficient use of feedstock.
The direction I suggest we take is this:
ferment our feedstock in a single chamber.
Less efficient per unit of feed.
Speed. Our throughput time
should be roughly half of theirs.
That means we could eat faster—eat more!—
because there's no downtime, no cud-chewing.
We don't compete directly.
Let them exploit the low-fiber market;
we'll own high-fiber.
Interestingly, this gets easier if we grow.
The bigger we are,
the less energy we need per cell.
So, in conclusion, friends,
I recommend we aggressively go after:
Fiber. Speed. Size.
It's niche-craft at its best,
and I think it's going to surprise the heck
out of the competition.
What do you say?
30 MILLION YEARS AGO, NORTH AMERICA
Global Warming: What Survives Is Also Beautiful
When you are thinking of ice melting,
Of seasons heating, of sands spreading,
When your heart despairs at beauty ending,
Hug your pony.
Out of rain forests drying and shrinking,
Over the lost lands rising and drowning,
Past ice reaching and ice withdrawing,
Came your pony.
Formed by changing that looked like ending,
He can't see what the future's bringing,
But around corners he's come galloping.
Hug your pony.
The P is silent.
Also the R and Z.
Don't read the placard
kindly provided by the zoo
to misinform you.
This is not a primitive horse,
to Blaze, or to Black Beauty.
This horse is new,
and beautifully adapted.
The large nose warms
the crystal air
so it will not shock the lungs.
Big feet easily
traverse the bogs.
Heavy body, short ears,
long shaggy coat
keep the claw of cold
from reaching to the heart.
If you want a name you can pronounce,
this is the horse the Ice made,
the last Ice, the Würm Ice.
Call her Glacial Horse.
200,000 B.C. TO THE PRESENT, NORTH AMERICA AND EURASIA
We are galloping this sea of grass,
Sunrise to sunset, sunrise to sunset.
No sound but our breath,
No sound but our galloping.
No sound but the wind, and the tall grass shhhing.
The sky is broad and blue and endless.
Endless are the grasses.
We crossed new land where none had been before,
Land from the sea, land between the seas.
Now on and on the grass stretches.
On stretch the herds.
Mammoth and reindeer, bison and rhino,
Our hooves beat the earth-drum.
Our voices speak.
Doe to her fawn.
Cow to her calf.
Mare to her foal.
ONE MILLION YEARS AGO,NORTH AMERICA TO BERINGIA
TO THE EURASIAN STEPPE
Who is this
Walking out of Africa?
Sleek like an antelope,
Shaggy like a bear.
Smell like a meat-eater.
ONE MILLION YEARS AGO TO 20,000 B.C., LEVANT, EUROPE, AND ASIA
The Great Hunt
Not a needle,
Not a nail,
Not a net and
Not a pail.
Not a shirt and
Not a rope,
Not an arrow,
Not a hope.
Thus it was in oldest times,
Not in yours and not in mine.
Now we sew our clothes of skin,
Now we flake the spearpoints thin.
Hunt the mammoth, hunt the deer,
Hunt the horse, and eat, and cheer.
Round the fire, tell the story,
Tell the daring, tell the glory.
Paint it deep inside the cave,
You and I and they were brave.
Thank them all for food they gave us,
Fat and meat and hide to save us.
It's a good life here, my daughter,
Camped beside the flowing water.
Hear the beating of the drum.
Hear the vast herds, hear them come.
This is how we'll always live.
Herds will give and give and give.
Mammoth roam and wild horse run,
From moon to moon
And sun to sun.
35,000 B.C. TO 5000 B.C., SOUTHERN EUROPE
It's a rope halter, isn't it,
on this neighing pony?
He's tethered, isn't he,
And calling to his herd?
You've seen a pony call like that,
Tied, and his stablemate departing.
But it's thirteen thousand years ago
And we say, with all our knowledge,
That no horse was tamed then and so
None was haltered,
And we'll never know.
At a cave's mouth
In a green and sheltered valley,
Did someone have a pack pony?
tied out to lure the others to the spear?
Or are these rope marks
cut into the antler
by our own imaginations?
Is this lonely neigh,
the openmouthed, left-behind look
the mere slip
of an unskilled craftsman's hand?
11,000 B.C., FRANCE
They'd sent out colonists,
wave on wave—
the large, the small,
the many-toed, the single-toed.
ice from the north devoured the homeland,
divided and whittled the herds.
Yet they lived
many carefree generations,
each believing the pastures
had always been this size,
each believing that the world
ended at the ice-wall.
This proved false.
The people from beyond
had seen horses before
and knew well how to hunt them.
The horses did not know how to be hunted.
In the ice-bound meadows
they had nowhere to run,
no time to learn.
So in America, where they began,
horses ended—or paused.
A long pause: some eleven thousand years.
But out in the wide world
and at last returned to the home-place,
to find the folks all gone.
60 MILLION YEARS AGO TO 10,000 B.C., NORTH AMERICA DECEMBER 1493, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
Excerpted from Hoofprints by Jessie Haas. Copyright © 2004 Jessie Haas. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Jessie Haas is the author of numerous acclaimed books for young people, including Unbroken, which was a Publishers Weekly Best Book. She lives in Westminster, Vermont, with her husband, Michael J. Daley, a children’s author. Haas began writing about horses from a young age and wrote a story during her junior year of college that became her first novel, Keeping Barney.
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