Archive for the 'scribbling' category

September 9th, 2010

» Expect the Unexpected

I wrote this piece for the Fall 2010 issue of Cross Country (the Central States Dressage & Eventing Association’s magazine), and thought posting it here would be much easier than writing a whole Poe update from scratch.

Riding, especially young horses, you learn to adapt, and to expect the unexpected. When it’s good, you celebrate. And when it’s bad, you pick back up and try again.

It’s fall 2009, and I suddenly find myself horse shopping again after selling my young gelding on to his dream job. I know what I want next: a nice youngish horse with a solid foundation, who will be ready to compete in the spring. As a kid I’d taken eight years of lessons without setting foot in a show ring; I’m itching to go to my first real Event, and by gosh I’m going to get a horse who’s ready too. So of course in the middle of December there I am sitting on a coming four year old, once again weaving through a drunk baby trot. But Poe is so clearly a Good Choice that square two doesn’t sound so bad any more, and I take that skinny-necked redheaded boy home – Merry Christmas to me!

By July, Poe and I are getting there with the flatwork, spending more time stretching down and less time on giraffe impersonations. We hack everywhere we can get, and do short, fun sessions over small fences. We pop over ditches, up and down banks, through water; we lope around little hunter and jumper courses at local shows. I’m careful to keep it all baby-appropriate, and Poe in turn is cheerful and optimistic about everything in life. All told we’re starting to look like we might actually be eventers – we just need more mileage.

And there, a modest six hours away, is the Catalpa Corner Charity Horse Trials, with its Starter Beginner Novice division: real cross-country jumps at two feet and lower. Perfect! I can get him used to traveling, give him a taste of a big show atmosphere, and stuff him (if necessary) around his first real cross-country course. Dressage is some circles, changes of rein – we practice and take it seriously, but we’re so far from competitive that I figure we’ll count it a success if we just do the test and stay in the ring. You can guess where this is going.

Friday afternoon we have a stellar ride – Poe is the best he’s ever been! We’re round, harmonious, floating – I want nothing more than to ride the test immediately. I make the mistake of confessing this out loud – several times. By warm-up time on Saturday my future FEI star has been replaced by a barging, rocketing giraffe. In the 95* heat my last brain cells liquefy and fall out my ears; I forget about that really important breathing thing and cling only to the thought that it will all be over soon – just follow the test and stay in the ring.

I do manage to remember my test. However, for anyone unfamiliar with BN Test B, it does NOT include a “hop sideways out of the ring at H” movement. I’m sure ours is worth at LEAST a 6: some resistance, but square knees! Then I have to explain my idiocy to a string of officials before finding the person who can okay me to ride cross-country. She doesn’t seem any more impressed with our new dressage move than the judge was, but we’re given permission to continue – so long as we retire in the event of a refusal. No pressure or anything for the green baby and the girl who’s already established she can’t steer.

When we enter the start box I’m thinking about our First Start Box Ever, and Poe is wondering if that guy with the clipboard has any cookies. We trot onto the course. Poe is bewildered by the row of hay bales up ahead and balks; I stick my leg on hard, trying to banish a horrible vision of having to retire at the first fence. Poe tries a little left, a little right, and then happily goes over. We zig-zag up to and over the next few fences, then settle into more of a rhythm. I start believing again that we can do this thing. We get a little creative at the water, squeaking through the narrow strip of sand between the flag and the water itself, but it counts and we’re clear. Poe comes off the course more confident, feeling good about his little lark through that big field; I’m tingling and proud as hell of him.

I have a lot to think about on the long drive home through cornfield after cornfield after cornfield. Mostly I try (and fail) not to dwell on the Big E, that moment when we went sideways instead of straight. When I get home I have to tell the story over and over again; I get better at telling it but feel worse every time I have to explain every gory detail to a non-horsey person. But the horsey people are a blessing: so many have their own stories of mortal embarrassment, blips in training, lessons learned.

The very next weekend there’s a schooling show just an hour and a half away. I want absolutely nothing to do with the inside of another dressage ring – which means I really need to go. I decide this time I’ll tell no one, leave the tall boots at home, show Poe under his barn name – anything to make it less of a Big Deal. It’s a full Beginner Novice; I head out half convinced the cross-country is going to look too tough, and I’ll just scratch after dressage.

The course turns out to be up to size but fair, with some great terrain questions and a very inviting water entrance. We’ll try it, I decide – if I don’t die of nerves before dressage. We warm up in a downpour, but just before my test the sky clears. I dash the water from the brim of my helmet, take a deep breath, and head for the ring. I am determined as hell and probably look like a crazy person as I negotiate my turns, staying well clear of the fence. It’s a very mediocre test, but after our halt I feel incandescent. I’m not sure what the etiquette is for whooping in the dressage ring, so I refrain (just barely).

When we trot out of the start box onto the cross-country course, Poe has no clue what’s going on – he’s gawking at the people over there in the lawnchairs, and that bush, and those flags. I point out the first jump, and he says Oh, a jump, okay. No wiggling or balking, just an easy little hop over it. After the third jump he starts looking for them, and by the sixth we’re eventers. He gambols through the course, and after the last fence I am so elated I almost blow right past the finish flags. We duck through them at the last moment, and I throw him a loud party. In my excitement I perhaps say a few things unfit for print, but I know the people waiting for their turn on course understand. Sometimes it’s just that good.

October 20th, 2003

» Berlin

I haven’t posted anything in a while, and I really don’t have anything to say at the moment, so I’ll give you the old creative writing cop-out.


The lion lying in the
Pergamon, stone-faced and
sleeping in this split city
does not dream of
nor think of knitting scars,
but recalls the sun and
the fierceness and having
his knuckles where daisies are carved
bathed in blood and milk.
He is a stolen deity
and their now-native god
is (here) so much bigger,
fat and feasting,
that the lion closes his eyes against them
and dreams by the broken blue promenade
of Babylon.

September 30th, 2003

» a curse poem

We had to write curse poems for creative writing, and though yesterday and this morning I was feeling milk-mild and gentle and loving of everybody, now I’m all self-righteous and angry again. It’s going on two years this February, and I still hate him. A lot.

Om Mani Padme Hum

“Nonviolence,” you claimed.
Well, I’ll give you nonviolence.
You stand there with your
needle mouth up-curled,
and with your sleepy Buddha eyes
like you’re looking out beyond
all of us, your platoon of trick sheep,
out over the whole world
and you’re knowing e v e r y t h i n g .
Bet you’ve even guessed this,
the fire in my twisting stomach and
all the things I’d really like to say to you,
all these words drooping a little at the edges,
my lowing scorn,
but remember: a flower can stand against
the barrel of a gun.

So next time you say
The midterm is important
You will fail the midterm
I don’t give tests early
I do not want to hear it
don’t give us a “fun day”.
Don’t chuckle at half of St. Louis
when I’m stumbling into Minneapolis at
2 a.m.
my car shivering with frost
and the night like pitch
and the street lights out
and the radio faltering
and my mind swimming back to
7:30 a.m. wake-up time
’cause if I ditch now what it means is
upside down in a snow bank.

I am more than this body
filling another seat in your classroom
three days a week without fail
five minutes early and
ten minutes late
(because we do not need to eat
and those markers on the clock,
those numbers,
those are just suggestions, right?
and we are not shifting in our seats
we are not watching that clock’s
spinning arms
and thinking 5:20 on a Friday night
5:22 . . .
5:25 . . .
5:27 . . . )

We’re all finally free of you
and your “lovingkindness”.
But don’t mistake me:
I have learned something.
Now these thoughts are bullets
these thoughts are nails and
my mind a hammer and you
splintered wood.

September 1st, 2003

» Farewell to Minnesota Poem

For creative writing tomorrow we’ve all been charged to plagiarize a poem from our book (Thus Spake the Corpse) — to steal the form and/or idea and make it our own. So, I did.


(in the tradition of Ronnie Burk)

Bye now!
abominable marshmallow coat
factory, Mall of America
ringing w/ wedding bells
& screaming roller coasters,
Dakota bone-sewn bedrock,
old plump Norwegian housewife
ancestors miles belowground,
radio humming Garrison Keillor,
I love you too! Showy Lady Slipper
blinking pink beneath tall
black ever-greens,
moon hanging huge & orange &
unseen above raging white
blizzard, tiny Halloween
witch-girls anticipating candy corn,
cars full of waving friends-not-
yet-met, Northern Lights
white picket fencing stars all the way
to Canada. Big red cherry balancing
on big silver spoon at The Walker
biggest ball of twine in Darwin
Snoopy snooping around downtown
Lucy offering advice near the Mississippi
riverbank where I, for old time’s
sake, pose with F. Scott Fitzgerald
have a shot at the Pig’s Eye
w/ ghosts of Al Capone,
John Dillinger, Babyface Nelson
see ya later friends, relatives, sprawling
family tree grown up around
potlucks w/ hotdish & bars &
lefsa & lutefisk around ten thousand
lakes, a hundred thousand boats
barnacled w/ sly Eurasian milfoil
motoring around heron, herring,
mosquitoes, loons, monarchs,
fishers reeling in sleek trout shivering
w/ mercury, teach me
to sing! robin in red-breasted
fall maples over Summit Ave.
copper dome roof of the
Basilica of St. Mary turning
slowly green in late Indian
(Minnehaha Mahtomedi Wayzata)
summer may your blessings
spread over this coming winterland,
quicken cold hearts & old hates
into the sudden spring rapture of every
fresh start…

August 28th, 2003

» me, according to eng204

My name is Bob. When I was eight, I joined the circus. It was all the elephants that got to me — a fascination with big ears, I guess. I spent the next five years moisturizing their knees. During that time I was taken under the wing of an aging, cross-dressing acrobat who trained me in the way of circus folk and bee keeping. One thing led to another, and I ended up serving cocktails at the UN, but unfortunately my allergy to green wool stockings forced me to quit that job and begin my life as a vagrant/hired assassin. Like all vagrant/hired assassins, I spent two years in a rotting Mexican prison before digging my way out with a rusted spoon and finally making my way to Wall Street where I earned my first million selling cheese dip for hot salted pretzels. My partner was busted for tax fraud and I decided to leave the life in pursuit of higher education.

In my first year at Truman State, I suffered a massive heart attack and died. The mad scientist who lives in the catacombs beneath Science Hall unearthed me and restored me to life via a risky experiment involving osmosis and candy corn. I have the brain of a psychopath, the heart of a baboon, and the toe of an emu. I also have 67 cats who I have trained via our psychic connection to jump above the ceiling tiles in my dorm room whenever the SA or George Bush is near. At night we huddle beneath my bed while my roommate performs elaborate seances, calling upon the baboon donor of my heart in an attempt to turn me and my cats into an evil army of semi-undead bee keepers. Come to think of it, my father always did say there was a fortune to be made in honey somehow.

When I’m not training my cats for the 2004 Olympics synchronized swimming competition, I enjoy the long walk to McClain, junk email, and cricket infestations. This coming winter I hope to debut my new recipe for the Honey Bun, so watch your grocer’s bread aisle.