WAR BRIDLE by Maria Lisa Eastman

marialisa1

WAR BRIDLE
by Maria Lisa Eastman

I used to be a girl who rode bucking horses.
Not in a rodeo or anything glamorous,
just regular horses who bucked—
horses owned by people
who didn’t want them to buck.

Those horses did not scare me.

When they bucked, I sat down deep,
slapped my long reins on their flanks, made them run.
They ran fast and for a long time.
I didn’t let them stop.
If they slowed, I slapped my reins again
so they picked up their pace.

After some long miles, I’d let them slow—
they would draw in great
shuddering breaths,
lifting my legs off their ribs.
Then, all at once, they’d let go,
but it wasn’t anything they did
or anything you could see.
When it happened,
I could feel it run clean, clear
like a mountain stream through us both.
I didn’t question why they bucked.
Likely they all had good reasons.
I wasn’t thoughtful like I am now but
I wasn’t unfeeling or unkind—
I just took it plain, they bucked,
my job was to get them to stop.

Not by being good at riding bucking horses,
because I was never any good at that.
What I was pretty good at was
staying on a running horse,
and that’s what I figured they needed to do.

Run.

When I asked them to run,
I was one-hundred-percent sincere.
I knew the right thing was to go somewhere with them,
instead of nowhere against them.
I was sure of it.
Those horses believed in me.

When I got a little older, I changed.

I don’t know just what it was that changed in me.
That’s what I’m here trying to work out.
What I do know is I quit asking them to run.
I got stuck in their fear, made it my own.
When those horses bucked,
I would get scared,
I would get mad—
I was at war with anything that crossed my path.

And nobody knows that better than a horse.

© 2018, Maria Lisa Eastman
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

The official bio of Maria Lisa Eastman, award-winning poet and frequent invited performer to the Western Folkife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, tells, “Wyoming rancher Maria Lisa Eastman hails from the village of Hyattville, Wyoming, population 100. She and her husband operate the Oxbow Ranch, a sometimes-for-profit hay and cattle outfit, and Rainhorse Equine Assisted Services, a verifiable non-profit, where unfortunate horses are rehabilitated to help people who have had troubles themselves.”

This poem is included in her new book, Regarding the Others. She comments, “This is an auto-biographical poem, looking back to a time when I was able to help out a couple of difficult horses. Then I wasn’t able to anymore. I didn’t know it then, but my heart had fallen out of harmony, and I’d stopped giving 100%. It wasn’t until 20 years later or so that I began to wonder what had happened and why. In the process of looking into myself, I wrote this poem.

See our feature about Maria Lisa Eastman, which includes more of her poetry (“How to Tell a Coyote to Go Away” and “Bad Business”).

59910831_2353424188232616_1225929527662739456_n

Of her new book, Paul Zarzyski writes, “In her first book of poetry, aptly titled Regarding the Others, Maria Lisa Eastman, by amplifying the choirs of venerable voices of “the others,” magnifies the intrinsic presence of those fellow beings defining our hallowed West—paramount of whom, the horse…” Past Wyoming Poet Laureate, Wyoming rancher Patricia Frolander describes the book as, “Deliciously fresh and deeply caring poems from a poet who understands the power of relationship.”

The cover of Regarding the Others is by celebrated artist Theodore Waddell.

Find the book at Amazon and for $15 postpaid from Maria Lisa Eastman, P.O. Box 55, Hyattville, WY 82428.

This photo is courtesy of Maria Lisa Eastman.

(Please respect copyright. You can share this poem with this post, but for other uses, request permission.)

Maria Lisa Eastman; “Regarding the Others” and three poems

59910831_2353424188232616_1225929527662739456_n.jpgcover art by Theodore Waddell, “Ryegate Horses”

In her first book of poetry, aptly titled Regarding the Others, Maria Lisa Eastman, by amplifying the choirs of venerable voices of “the others,” magnifies the intrinsic presence of those fellow beings defining our hallowed West—paramount of whom, the horse…  Paul Zarzyski, Rodeo Poet

Deliciously fresh and deeply caring poems from a poet who understands the power of relationship.  Patricia Frolander, Wyoming Poet Laureate 2011-2013

bwseparator

POEMS

War Bridle
How to Tell a Coyote to Go Away
Bad Business

marialisa1.jpg

bwseparator

WAR BRIDLE

I used to be a girl who rode bucking horses.
Not in a rodeo or anything glamorous,
just regular horses who bucked—
horses owned by people
who didn’t want them to buck.

Those horses did not scare me.

When they bucked, I sat down deep,
slapped my long reins on their flanks,
made them run.
They ran fast and for a long time.
I didn’t let them stop.
If they slowed, I slapped my reins again
so they picked up their pace.

After some long miles, I’d let them slow—
they would draw in great
shuddering breaths,
lifting my legs off their ribs.

Then, all at once, they’d let go,
but it wasn’t anything they did
or anything you could see.
When it happened,
I could feel it run clean, clear
like a mountain stream through us both.

I didn’t question why they bucked.
Likely they all had good reasons.
I wasn’t thoughtful like I am now but
I wasn’t unfeeling or unkind—
I just took it plain, they bucked,
my job was to get them to stop.

Not by being good at riding bucking horses,
because I was never any good at that.
What I was pretty good at was
staying on a running horse,
and that’s what I figured they needed to do.

Run.

When I asked them to run,
I was one-hundred-percent sincere.
I knew the right thing was to go
somewhere with them,
instead of nowhere against them.
I was sure of it.
Those horses believed in me.

When I got a little older, I changed.

I don’t know just what it was that changed in me.
That’s what I’m here trying to work out.
What I do know is I quit asking them to run.
I got stuck in their fear, made it my own.
When those horses bucked,
I would get scared,
I would get mad—
I was at war with anything that crossed my path.

And nobody knows that better than a horse.

© 2018, Maria Lisa Eastman
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

Maria Lisa Eastman comments:

This is an auto-biographical poem, looking back to a time when I was able to help out a couple of difficult horses. Then I wasn’t able to anymore. I didn’t know it then, but my heart had fallen out of harmony, and I’d stopped giving 100%.  It wasn’t until 20 years later or so that I began to wonder what had happened and why. In the process of looking into myself, I wrote this poem.

59910831_2353424188232616_1225929527662739456_n.jpg

HOW TO TELL A COYOTE TO GO AWAY

Last night I heard her sing.
The dogs went crazy—they’d like to join in,
but lost their voices,
traded for regular meals.

I’ll admit, I loved to hear it,
her wavering soprano.
I wanted that wild joy,
the kind that swells big,
cannot be contained,
so you just give in,
throw back your head,
set it free.

Why is she so close?
Is she young, nonchalant,
or just unschooled?
Shrugging off the risk of easy prey,
like I was once,
a cocky scoffer of all elder wisdom.

She had better go—
though I admire her music,
she is not welcome here.
I want to tell her to go away,
to learn life out in the faraway hills,
away from the tempt of easy living.

It’s my secret,
to care about a coyote.
I like to think she could find a sandy den,
bear her pups, have a life.

I think I’ll give her a chance—
keep it just between us.
I’ll walk up the ditch road,
when I find her,
I’ll shoot
once at her tail.

I hope she understands.

© 2018, Maria Lisa Eastman
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

Maria Lisa Eastman comments:

Ah. Coyotes. We hate them, we love them. They slay our lambs, lure our dogs to untimely death, and eat our chickens – or at least scare them into not laying for a week. And yet…that song. What would the West be without their song? They are iconic; sometimes frightening, sometimes thrilling. All the cultures of our West have stories about Coyote. This is a short story about trying to strike a deal with one particular coyote.

59910831_2353424188232616_1225929527662739456_n.jpg

BAD BUSINESS

In a snowy cornfield
between our gate and the highway
hungry mothers have been running the fence.
It doesn’t matter that the snow is deep now
because their feed was all gone anyway.
When we drive down the road
they gallop after the pickup,
bellowing their outrage.

The neighbor’s hired man says he fed them
but with what?
We’d rather not watch at all,
we’re stuck,
reluctant judges
wishing we could look away
better yet, find
a line of green laid out in the snow.

Last night
before the mercury dropped to minus 35
a stronger bunch jumped the cattle guard,
headed down the icy pavement to find a mouthful.
Neighbors phoned for miles.
Black cows in a dark night.

The sheriff said, “That trucker never even saw them.”

© 2018, Maria Lisa Eastman
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission

Maria Lisa Eastman comments:

Inspired by a sad event one winter. It was a bad, bad business. It was also bad business.

bwseparator

marialisaeastman.jpg
Wyoming rancher Maria Lisa Eastman hails from the village of Hyattville, Wyoming, population 100. She and her husband operate the Oxbow Ranch, a sometimes-for-profit hay and cattle outfit, and Rainhorse Equine Assisted Services, a verifiable non-profit, where unfortunate horses are rehabilitated to help people who have had troubles themselves.

Some years ago, while riding colts out in the foothills of New Mexico, Maria Lisa began to collect and study native grasses, and was inspired to earn a master’s degree in range and watershed management.

Maria, Emmy & Coco

More recently, she is the recipient of the 2018 Neltje Blanchan Fellowship in Creative Writing from the Wyoming Arts Council, and has performed several times at the Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada.

One of her poems is included in the anthology Blood, Water, Wind, and Stone: An Anthology of Wyoming Writers (2016), and she has published a chapbook collection of her poetry, entitled Regarding the Others (2019).

Maria Lisa’s work arises from the landscapes of the West and from its animals, plants, and people.

59910831_2353424188232616_1225929527662739456_n.jpg

Regarding the Others is available from Amazon and for $15 postpaid from Maria Lisa Eastman, P.O. Box 55, Hyattville, WY 82428.

Find Maria Lisa Eastman on Facebook.

marialisa2