Secretariat: The Red Freak, The Miracle by Lyn Lifshin

ON A NIGHT HERONS WERE DIVING THRU THE WAVES OF NIGHT
 
up in the forties weeks
past heavy February snow.
Geese on the pond. Bleak,
drizzly. Black mist over
Meadow Farm. Grass
flattened, matted as in
hours straw will be in the
foaling shed, a dark rose
spreading under the mare’s
heaving sighs
 
WET GRASS DARKENING
 
the walk past the barn
as blood would matted
straw before it was
light again. Two figures
cross the lawn, the
wildness of geese in the
distance. The men
get in a car. One bulb
hangs in the foaling shed.
Under the almost
jade slopes roots are
growing. The mare
calms herself with groan
songs as milk begins
to wax, pearls on
her nipples like
a bud opening
 
THRU MIST, ONE LIGHT IN THE FOALING BARN
 
the drizzle, close to freezing.
In barn 17 A, the brood
mare, Somethingroyal,
carries the last foal of Bold
Ruler, dying in Kentucky.
Milk on her nipples. if
the rafters. If rafters could
talk they would be singing
soon he will be yours and
you must take care of
what you’ve been given
 
THRU DAMP FIELDS PERFUMED WITH OAK LEAVES
 
the men moved thru drizzle
to barn 17 A, moved over
gravel in grey fog, moved
toward the one light. The
mare was breathing fast.
she was warm and sweaty,
edgy. She was circling
as if caged. Then she was
lying on her side. Then it
was just a heart beat before
the tip of a foot burst into
flower, the first petal of
what would flower
 
MARCH 30, JUST PAST MIDNIGHT
 
She was warm and her
nostrils, wild. Ready,
nearly ready. Only
the mare’s breath like
a silence you could
understand. The mare
on straw on her side
and just past midnight
the tip of one foot.
Then, gently as some
one kissing eyes that
are crying, the foaling
man reached in to ease
a folded leg out of the
birth canal
 
ONCE THE SHOULDER EMERGED
 
the men moved closer in the
long blue damp wind. Blood
on the warm straw. The mare’s
body opening. The men pull
gently. Slosh of water and
then the foal’ s slippery body,
iodine and the smell of birth
in the wind the minutes
after midnight. “A wooper,”
some. ” “white feet, a lovely
colt,” in Secretariat’s record
fan book. “Lovely,” was
underlined twice.
 
PAST WILLOWS ON THE MOST WESTERN EDGE OF THE FARM
 
The mare’s udder swells
with milk, something
wax like drying on her
nipples like the just
polished swirls of wood.
After her wild breath,
the heaving, the blood,
three feet and a star,
dark flowers of his hair
against the drained mare
falling back easily as
the wind rising up
from North Anna’s
River
 
RIVETED TO SECRETARIAT’S BURSTING FORTH
 
those easing him from
Somethingroyal’s body
said he was on his feet
in twenty minutes, in
45 he was nursing. “Big
strong, male foal with
plenty of bone.” Warm
breath of horses, Carolina
Riverwind. In her log,
Elizabeth Ham the farm
secretary wrote “well
made colt, good straight
hind legs, good shoulders,
good quarters: you
have to like him.”
 
IN PENNY CHENNERY’S NOTEBOOK AFTER THE NIGHT OF DRIZZLE, RAIN
 
as the river settled
and willow leaves
yellowed: one
word: Wow
 
WHEN A LEGGY FOAL COMES INTO THE WORLD
 
and cherry boughs are
swelling, hope flowers
like these buds. When
the foal seems different,
unlike others, who
doesn’t dream it can
go the distance, that a
“miracle has arrived”
 
HE WAS DIFFERENT
 
someone who was around
Secretariat from the time
of his birth said he was
different. Just walking
the horse in the paddock
it was as if the wind
tongued the cups of his
ears and he a flash, if the
handler lost focus, the
horse knew it
and was gone
 
JUST WALKING THE HORSE TO THE PADDOCK
 
a bruiser some
one said bigger than
the other foals his age.
His legs barely
touched the ground
under the shiny trees.
He could cuff the other
foals, bite and
kick . He was playing.
Licked by his
mare, not only at
birth but long after
with everyone touching
and holding him he
grew bolder,
confident
 
HE HAD A MIND OF HIS OWN
 
wild for something
deep in the bodies of
trees. He’d bolt in
a breathbeat. “A very
aggressive type colt.”
Jazz in the air. Ghostly,
magical. A loop thru his
halter to keep him in
check
 
ON THAT FIRST DAY WAS SOMETHING ROYAL
 
his mare panting?
puzzled? Those huge
shoulders. Something
she couldn’t see
quivering thru her.
The mare had foaled
easily before but
this time, even with
her feet on the dirt floor,
easier footing than
cement but this time
with the foal’s fore leg
folded like a petal
before it opens,
someone following
the mare’s contractions
gently eased him out of
the birth canal. Beautiful
the vet remembered,
his legs were perfect,
he had a beautiful
head and was
red as fire

 
Lyn_at_horse_museum_close_small
Lyn Lifshin at the Horse Museum
 
Lyn Lifshin has published over 140 books and chapbooks and edited three anthologies of women’s writing including Tangled Vines that stayed in print 20 years. She has several books from Black Sparrow books. Her web site, www.lynlifshin.com shows the variety of her work from the equine books, The Licorice Daughter: My Year with Ruffian and Barbaro: Beyond Brokenness to recent books about dance: Ballroom, Knife Edge and Absinthe: The Tango Poems. Other new books include For the Roses, poems for Joni Mitchell, All The Poets Who Touched Me; A Girl goes Into The Woods; Malala, Tangled as the Alphabet: The Istanbul Poems. Also just out: Secretariat: The Red Freak, The Miracle Malala and Luminous Women: Enheducanna, Scheherazade and Nefertiti. web site:www.lynlifshin.com

 

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