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No Bridle, No Bit, No Reins


Mary Anne Morefield

Smashwords Edition

Coffeetown Press

PO Box 70515

Seattle, WA 98127

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No Bridle, No Bit, No Reins

Copyright © 2017 by Mary Anne Morefield

ISBN: 978-1-60381-633-5 (Trade Paper)

ISBN: 978-1-60381-634-2 (eBook)

Library of Congress Control Number: 2017932192

Produced in the United States of America

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* * *

For Pamela, Margee, Josephine, Robin and Susie

* * *

The following poems are reprinted by permission.

First published by The 30/30 Project, Tupelo Press: “In Spring Grass and Dandelions,” “with eastern eyes,” “how she named her children,” “as if it were an ordinary day,” “There in the Fly-leaf Inscription,” and “Prayer to San Pasquale”

* * *


the wonder of small things

No Bridle, No Bit, No Reins

A steady clip-clop of hooves awakened me at midnight.

I raced outside to see my horse escaping

on a mission of his own, his white coat gleaming.

I chased him in summer moonlight

my white nightgown flapping at my ankles—

two night creatures running free.

Before he reached the country road that would lead

him away forever, I caught hold of his halter

to return him to pasture and me, to bed.

I grabbed mane instead, leaped

to his back and with my knees urged him

into a trot, a lope, a canter, urged him

to blue mountains beyond the valley, across

fields of corn, through the shallow stream.

He slowed on familiar mountain trails

and when he reached the ridge, he stopped,

enveloped in stars. With a mighty leap

like a Lipizzaner he sprang from earth,

flapped his mighty wings like Pegasus.

With no reins in my hands, no bit in his mouth,

I could only go where he took me.

He circled the moon at a dizzying pace,

a winged horse on an out-of-control carousel.

I grabbed for a brass ring each time we circled,

but at such a speed, three times I missed.

As if called home, we slept among stars

from which we both had come.

We Were Young and Strong

For years, we searched to find a farm,

drew up a list of our requirements:

solid house, stone bank barn, fenced

pastures and a view of low blue mountains,

saw farms too close to busy highways, farms

with ugly barns, farms without barns, farms

with mobile homes as neighbors. Discouraged

but undaunted, the dream persisted.

On the way home from church on a Sunday,

we drove up a lane. There it was, pastures

tall with burdock, stalls of the barn unmucked

but the stone barn itself magnificent,

the stone house sturdy with room for dogs

and children. As a bonus, a creek defined

the northern border, an ancient white oak

marked one corner. We fell in love.

We were young and strong. Some might

have called us foolish as they glanced

at the work we had undertaken.

After movers unloaded our furniture,

we picked up pitchforks left in a corner,

mucked stalls, chopped burdock, painted

fences, planted a garden, and loved that

farm for years and years, believing

we would never leave it. Now it belongs

to another young couple who folks

say have less sense, more money.

They have taken out the stalls, poured

concrete floors, hung crystal chandeliers

from ancient trusses, made a restroom

of the hen house. The farm surveyed

in 1767 is now a wedding venue.

Farm Child

with a collie dog and a calico cat for company

day after day that winter I left my daughter

unsupervised on a tiny chair in her playroom

turning pages in her favorite picture book

with piles of books around her while I pulled

on boots to make my way through snowdrifts

to the old bank barn where my hunter

and the children’s pony waited for me to refill

their frozen water buckets scoop a measure

of oats bought at the co-op in Mechanicsburg

open a bale of hay still smelling of summer

before I turned them out to exercise in the pasture

as I mucked their stalls and lay fresh straw

for bedding while at the house Liz sat

in her chair the dog and cat beside her

perhaps telling them stories making things

up as she saw each picture or remembering

bed time stories I’d read to her still I was surprised

as March arrived and the snow began to melt

she asked if I wanted her to read me a story

and as we sat side by side she began

to read although I had never taught her

Beside a Pennsylvania Creek in Spring

Daily I walk the path

besides the wandering stream

to discover spring

in tiny growing things

when springtime sun

has melted winter.

One day, Dutchman’s breeches

are hung to dry on the hill

discreetly hidden. The next,

trout lilies’ mottled leaves

and yellow stars delight me.

As days grow longer,

violets invite me to gather

a purple fistful to put spring

on my supper table.

Then in a wild rush,

the daughter of the wind, anemone,

the trillium you may not pick,

poisonous jack-in-the-pulpit,

May apples, white blossoms

hidden beneath three leaves.

At last, the truest miracle

in the final days of April,

I tramp through

thousands of bluebells—

the woodland floor

has turned to sky.

In Spring Grass and Dandelions

Night time and through open windows,

I hear sounds I have never heard—

loud snoring from the pasture.

Outside I approach the sound,

peer over the fence, and there lie

our three horses on their sides

in spring grass and dandelions.

My hunter is snoring. If he snores,

I wonder if he dreams, and if

he dreams, I wonder what he

dreams and if, like mine, his dreams

are a senseless, crazy jumble.

Does he dream of hunting foxes,

leaping fences, chasing mares or

could it be he dreams of freedom,

no bit in his mouth, no saddle

on his back, no reins, no painted

fences, no squeezing knees, no me?

Lost in the Wonder of Small Things

When my younger son was three or four,

he had a way of wandering off in what I thought

were dangerous places, lakes where he might drown

or parks crammed with unknown people.

I’d turn from watching sailboats with spinnakers

skim across the water, and he’d be gone.

In a panic, I sent the older children running

this way and that to bring him back to safety.

Quietly he’d appear, unaware

we’d thought he’d drowned or gotten lost.

He’d say, I was exploring and hold out

his hand with a shell, a pebble, or a penny.

Saturday Auction in a Cornfield in Cumberland County

An auctioneer stands at the window of a truck which rolls

through rows of farm equipment. I join the blue-jeaned farmers

to watch the auction. We walk between the rows of stubble

to keep pace with the rolling truck—from three-row corn planter

to silage blower, from a post-hole driller to a hay bar, from storage

bins, to sprayer tanks, a skid of plywood, and a cast-iron stove.

Hey boys, he urges the men when the bidding is slow. This corn picker

had only one owner. It comes with its original book of instructions.

The bright red Killbros gravity bin wagon with higher sides

brings $700, bidding on the Massey Ferguson disc rises to $1,600.

The high bidder holds up his number, 125. Someone records it.

The auction goes on—hay wagon, water tank, manure spreader,

tractor tires, snow blade and boom sprayer. The rusty cultivator

has no bidders. John might have bought it. The day grows colder.

Men head to a trailer to buy a hot dog, BBQ, a cup of steaming coffee.

Some stop at a red trailer to pay, hop in their Chevy trucks and drive away.

A woman in fancy fur-topped boots captures the day with her iPad.

I remember the long ago day when John bought a blue Ford tractor.

That was the year he was being treated for cancer.

Although he was an engineer, he loved to say he was a farmer.

Staking Claims

The bowed wire fence where the deer leaped over,

the path their hooves traced through the meadow

and in the rutting season, bucks’ antlers rubbing

against redbud, service berry and magnolia

staked the deer’s claim to the farm

more surely than any signed papers locked

in a steel box in a bank. Nightly, deer bedded

in tall meadow grass. At daybreak, they followed

the path to the stream to drink clear water.

If winter snow was deep and wind howled,

the deer chose ivy by the farmhouse wall

as a place to bed. I watched from the window

of my study, my cat beside me, a wood stove

glowing. Yes, they ate the ivy and yew, but

I forgave them. How sorry I am that now

I might fear them for the deer ticks they carry.

I am far from that beloved place, and yet

my heart claims the meadow, limestone house,

bank barn, blue birds, blue herons, trout

lilies, woods and winding stream as mine          forever.


and now i ask

Turning Wheel

Cave Ritual

For the months my daughter lived in the border cave

on the western scarp of the Lebombo Mountains,

I watched her, delighted in her first smile,

the first time she rolled from her belly to her back,

rejoiced when she sat alone by the fire

laughing as flames danced shadows on the walls

as I roasted bush pig, warthog or zebra.

That same fire warmed the cave, gave light

to long nights and protected us from lions.

I watched her play with shells her father

set before her when she grew too weak to sit.

Side by side we watched her breath grow shallow.

I held her close the night she died. Held her

as she grew blue and cold, and in the morning

as was our ritual, we covered her with ochre.

Her father dug a shallow grave in the floor

of the cave, and it was there that I laid her.

Before we placed soil around her, I left

the shell she treasured most in her hand

to comfort her wherever she was going.

How Could He Have Known?

I found a letter Grandma saved

in which my father wrote,

At two, she is a catamount.

I looked up the word to find

what he had called his baby daughter.

On page 223, I found myself—

a wild cat, a lynx, a puma, a cougar.

What wildness he must have seen.

I screamed, pounced on my big brother,

bit him, glared, said, No, and hit him.

When I did not get my way,

I held my breath and threw a tantrum.

Last year, I swabbed my cheek,

sealed the sample in a small glass vial

and mailed my DNA

to National Geographic to be tested.

I held my breath. After six weeks,

they emailed an answer.

We have examined your markers:

Your Hominim ancestry

(60,000 years and older)

1.6% Neanderthal and.8% Denisovan.

At some point my homo sapiens

relatives interbred with cousin

species of hominids?

Those were the first wild women.

My DNA counts me as one of them.


The first human to be buried with a personal ornament

was an infant who was interred with seashells

in Kwa Zulu-Natal’s Border cave 74,000 years ago.

My first grandchild had a rosebud mouth and a heart

anomaly. I snuggled her in my arms and rocked her

after she had surgery. She failed to thrive.

When she had difficulty sitting, she loved to be held

so she could flick the light switch on and off

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