David Faldet

Wild Horses


They placed his Stetson on the box

in which they laid him.  In the funeral

program they put a verse he liked

about a horse.  Of living things

nothing caught his fancy more.

He loved to break and ride and deal in them.


He did not like the tight pens

of veal calves,  the traps that make foxes

gnaw a leg,  or – when they made Nine,

the road on which he lived –

how they worked the mules to death.


But the way a well-trained horse works

with its rider was like sweet music

that left him humbled and easy. 

And he thought about the West

and what he'd heard, that a mustang

could not be outrun by many stationed

riders on fresh mounts. 


The movement

of herded steers, the beating wings

of chickens, the way his grandson toddled

toward him, all set echoes working in my uncle

of wild horses raising thunder on the plains.




"What's the difference between a wolf

and what they used to call skrubben?" 

my uncle asks. Near ninety, he is bent. 

His breath catches in his throat.


He sees outlines, dim colors, nothing more. 

Ulv is the word I know.  I've never heard

skrubben.  "There were lots," he says. 

"You don't hear about them any more." 


His mind fixes on what his grandfather said:

sleepless nights beneath a wagon box,

the thud of bodies against a shed door,  forests

echoing the howls of something fiercer than a wolf.


With strength gone, land passed on to sons

who farm it with machines, his dreams, his talk,

turn always back to the teams of horses,

to hired men and boys fresh from the old country,


and skrubben--in a time even before his own,

that hunted those bigger woods,

and made the pulse race in those men

who spoke a language he no longer hears.




When I’m gone, picture a springhouse,

the square stone building by the windmill,

where they put ten-gallon cans to chill.


The breezes brought the lifting arm to life.

The arm reached down into the dark,

and carried water upward into light.


In summer I’d take the tin cup from a nail

to catch what, cooled far underground,

splashed and sparkled at the spout.


Now the tanks are dry. The rotor blades

are bent or gone. The house smells musty.

Sun pours in hot where glass has broken out.


When I’m gone, remember that childhood

springhouse, the transformation of elements

it made, the taste so crisp I hunger for it still.


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David Faldet is the sixth generation in his family to live in hilly, rural northeastern Iowa.  He teaches at Luther College.  His poems have appeared in journals such as Prairie Schooner, Ruminate and Mid-American Review.