Swallows fly low and fast
Singing of nests in the arena’s rafters.
Heat radiates through wood and sand
Melodius with the voices of young girls,
Odorous with warm sweat of horses,
Pungent with fresh manure,
Sweet from hay growing in the field.
The mare and the girl work hard
Learning to dance together,
To understand a tug of the rein,
The lean of a body, the weight of a foot.
Dust rises where they turn, jump, and lope
This creature comprised of two–
My daughter, barely eighty pounds,
And the chestnut mare over a thousand.
My daughter’s face is flushed with heat and concentration;
The mare is sleek with sweat, but she hates to stop.
She is one with the girl who loves to run.
They both yearn to move through space
Soaring over hurdles. Maybe this is what makes
Them love each other so. When the lesson ends
The mare stands, eyes half closed as the girl
Brushes over tired muscles, soothes out tangled mane and tail.
The horse nudges her face against the girl.
Unbidden, she plods quietly behind the girl,
Content to follow her back to the corral.
Neither seems to want to leave the other.
Out in the paddock, maple trees shiver
In a cool wind easing down the canyon.
The mare comes close to stand by the girl,
Nudges her again. My daughter wraps her arms
Around the mare’s neck, buries her face
In that solid living warmth. The trees lean
Into the radiance of that quiet embrace.
I call to my girl, have the sense to let the two
Linger in that fast embrace.
I understand that love, that loathing to part.
My girl finally comes to me. In the sun,
The chestnut mare watches, her brown eyes
Warm as heated summer earth.
Cara Bullinger O’Sullivan is a BYU English department graduate who has worked as a magazine editor, technical writer, and IT systems auditor. She lives in Utah with her husband, two children and 2 dogs. In her spare time she enjoys pursuing various creative writing projects with unknown destinations.