Hear the author read this poem
First learn perspective, Leonardo said,
then draw from nature.
Stubbs’s Whistlejacket answers
on a canvas nine feet tall
commissioned in 1762
by the second Marquess of Rockingham.
This horse looks out at any who look in,
prickeared, exaggerated mane and tail
caught in a half-levade, hocks behind heels.
O horse of my heart, hang on at this still point
as all around us open-air markets explode,
body parts rain down and families
rush to collect them, else no afterlife.
The priest insists that animals are sinless,
have no souls, won’t appear in heaven,
his heaven, not the paradise
of expectant virgins. Where
Whistlejacket went is not revealed,
into the ground, perhaps, in his final pasture,
O horse of my heart, full nine feet tall.