I originally wrote the following poem in 1985 for my little sister. It wasn’t bad, but years later I didn’t think it was quite up to snuff, so I reworked it. Recently, after meeting this great guy and wonderful photographer named John Wagner, who lives near the Sand Wash Basin, in Colorado, I decided to rewrite it a third time, this time using the names of real mustangs introduced to me by the photography of John Wagner, my friend.
So here it is, the newest version in all its glory. Enjoy!
Both photos are courtesy of John A. Wagner. You can see many more and contact him about buying photographs on his Facebook page John A. Wagner. Thank you for looking!
The Circle Turns
Picasso was the mighty stud, master of the pack;
Many studs had challenged him, and all had been turned back;
Picasso was the lord of all, and none could claim his band;
And the paint stud ruled undaunted—this Colorado land;
He was king over the mountains, the water and the trees;
Ruler of the prairies, commander of the breeze.
Corona was a golden stud, colored like the sun;
He ruled another herd of mares, and the desert they would run.
He sired a little yellow colt, whose weak and wobbly knees
Seemed like they would let him fall against the slightest breeze.
But that little colt grew tall and strong, his tail flowed like the river;
He took his share of a warrior’s strength from the hand of Courage-giver.
Sand Wash Basin they called home, the lair of roving winds;
And here they kept themselves aloof from all of mankind’s sins.
Water ran but scarcely, amid the junipers and sage;
And Time came here infrequently when it wished to turn a page.
The land remained the same here as two centuries before;
And Picasso roamed this prairie and never needed more.
Then one day there came a golden stud they’d never seen;
He was large and sleek and wonderful, his muscles long and lean;
He loped into the valley, saw Picasso’s band;
His heart began to swiften—he coveted command;
So week by week he watched the herd, waiting for the day
That he could face Picasso, and send him on his way.
It was early of a morning—the herd had come to feed
Along the edge of a desert lake, Picasso in the lead;
The palomino stood back in the trees—his presence was unknown;
But Picasso smelled him on the air and in the breeze’s moan;
So he gazed across the water’s swell, testing of the air,
Wondering what stallion would dare invade his lair.
The call came across the water, cold and piercing shrill;
Ominous to Picasso, who sensed a deadly chill,
For there was something in that call that spoke to him the end;
Yet it placed a power in his bones, and bold strength it did lend.
Then the other horse was there, a-pawing of the earth,
And Picasso’s mares, and his young colts were giving him a berth.
Picasso raised his tail high, and scented for the other stud;
He stood stock-still and watched him gallop through the mud;
And now the two were face to face, gazing at their foe,
This young warrior son of Corona, his head held way down low;
Picasso seemed to understand the end had come at last;
He found his old mind wandering across a glorious past.
He recalled a time when he had faced the leader of the band—
When he had fought and won this herd and the kingdom of this land;
No good thing lasts forever—the old horse knew this proof;
The palomino looked intense and fierce of tooth and hoof;
The mares and young had turned away, then stopped to view the show;
To watch the fight with Picasso, and this wild-eyed palomino.
But it was the pinto stallion, to surprise and pride of all,
Who reared up on his hind hooves, screamed and rolled the ball;
He leaped to where the young one stood pawing at the dirt,
And sank his teeth into his neck and strove to make it hurt;
It did hurt, too, the stud’s scream showed;
Picasso watched him tear away, and victory he crowed.
But the yellow stud was coming back, bloodlust in his eye;
Picasso couldn’t stem this tide, no matter how he’d try;
The stallions pounded, struck, and bit, set the hair a-fly;
Sent great clouds of swirling dust up into the sky;
But Picasso fast was weakening, his trembling limbs they showed
That he could not keep up the fight and walk the victor’s road.
So with a cry, Picasso galloped for the hills,
Charging toward the mountains’ familiar rocks and rills;
He never stopped his traveling, ’til he was far away;
’Til he could let his ears escape his foe’s victorious neigh;
And Picasso now had no one and had lost his mountain home;
So he joined the bachelor mustangs, for death came to those alone.
And now the young stud, Warrior, would rule until he found
The stallion mightier than he, who’d claim the victor’s ground;
Down below, a grassy swale, Warrior with the herd;
Twenty years had passed, when there came the shadow of a bird;
It was the golden eagle, guardian of the land,
The mountains and the valleys that across a country spanned.
And the eagle saw a buckskin stud, his tail flowing black;
The eagle knew that Warrior was soon to lose the pack;
The mighty sea had reached the shore, the river’d reached its bend;
The day had come that Warrior would see a ruler’s end;
And so the circle turns and turns, the sun will rise and set;
The wind alone can whisper tales of the stallions that have met.
If you enjoyed this poem, you should also enjoy my novel Death of an Eagle, which you can buy here. It features another horrific fight between rival stallions witnessed by the young Jose McAllister, a Basque Sheepherder in 1880’s Idaho trying to learn the ways of the wilderness.
Click on the cover to order autographed copy >>>>>