When the horse picked Mama up by the hair

that time, was she scared? 

There is a photograph of her with this horse

in the brown family album. She stands

beside him, thin in the chilly wind

hands behind her back. When I imagine her

held there, the difference between air and ground

is so small. She was

too close to something I couldn’t understand:

the horse’s hot breath racing

his long legs still.

(Why didn’t he run with her

past the barbed wire and barley fields?)


She used to tell people

I was so much like her, she wanted

to choke me. When she shook my shoulders

or lifted me by the hair

I thought only of my feet leaving the ground, 

that small freedom. She doesn’t remember

waiting for the horse to run, or for someone

to help her down. I don't know how

she got away.

Did her mother cut off her hair, 

watch fine wisps of it flying in the wind?

Bibliographical info

Tonja Gulvaldsen Klaassen’s “Mama” Copyright © 1996 by Tonja Gulvaldsen Klaassen. Source “Mama” from Clay Birds (Coteau Books, 1996). Reprinted by permission of the author.

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