My favorite poem in 9th grade

She Had Some Horses
by Joy Harjo

She had some horses.
She had horses who were bodies of sand.
She had horses who were maps drawn of blood.
She had horses who were skins of ocean water.
She had horses who were the blue air of sky.
She had horses who were fur and teeth.
She had horses who were clay and would break.
She had horses who were splintered red cliff.

She had some horses.

She had horses with eyes of trains.
She had horses with full, brown thighs.
She had horses who laughed too much.
She had horses who threw rocks at glass houses.
She had horses who licked razor blades.

She had some horses.

She had horses who danced in their mothers’ arms.
She had horses who thought they were the sun and their
bodies shone and burned like stars.
She had horses who waltzed nightly on the moon.
She had horses who were much too shy, and kept quiet
in stalls of their own making.

She had some horses.

She had horses who liked Creek Stomp Dance songs.
She had horses who cried in their beer.
She had horses who spit at male queens who made
them afraid of themselves.
She had horses who said they weren’t afraid.
She had horses who lied.
She had horses who told the truth, who were stripped
bare of their tongues.

She had some horses.

She had horses who called themselves, “horse”.
She had horses who called themselves, “spirit”, and kept
their voices secret and to themselves.
She had horses who had no names.
She had horses who had books of names.

She had some horses.

She had horses who whispered in the dark, who were afraid to speak.
She had horses who screamed out of fear of the silence, who
carried knives to protect themselves from ghosts.
She had horses who waited for destruction.
She had horses who waited for resurrection.

She had some horses.

She had horses who got down on their knees for any saviour.
She had horses who thought their high price had saved them.
She had horses who tried to save her, who climbed in her
bed at night and prayed as they raped her.

She had some horses.

She had some horses she loved.
She had some horses she hated.

These were the same horses.
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5 Responses to My favorite poem in 9th grade

  1. yesisaidyesiwillyes says:

    This year-by-year is fun, and interesting, and you had some great favorites. And it’s pretty dang fine that you can remember like this.

    Harjo reads her poem out loud here .

    There are web-postings out there that try to explain why young girls like horses so much, though none I find seem comprehensive. Harjo’s poem — it’s horses — of course reaches back to to the Native American traditions, or that’s what I think, plus the “speaker” in is an adult I think (cf reference to “beer”). But what about you, in 9th grade: was it the shiftings and mysteries of personal identity in the lines, the great images (“waltzed nightly on the moon”), the horses, or (probably) all of the above (and more)?

  2. I’ve never been one for horses. I could really care less about horses, and generally thought the few girls I knew who hung out at the stables smelled bad.

    I liked how many kinds of things could fit into the same horses. I considered myself a rich individual with many interests, facets, talents, etc. (and I was. Far too much so for a “normal” 9th grader who quietly “fits in” to the social structures of junior high). I knew I wasn’t perfect, that I had good sides and bad sides, dark sides and nice sides. This poem was empowering, because it says “it’s normal for all of those things to coexist in one being.”

    I think my favorite lines– because they’re ones I remember, and because they strike me now in their simplicity– were:

    She had horses who had no names.
    She had horses who had books of names.

  3. I also like “eyes of trains.” What does that mean? It’s very evocative. Not an image I would ordinarily come up with or try to wrap my head around. I don’t normally compare eyes to trains. But I know what it looks like.

  4. yesisaidyesiwillyes says:

    ” . . . eyes of trains” might be my favorite phrase here too. Vision that’s powered by huge locomotives is what I feel there. That goes and goes. Blasting through the let’s say calm riverine morning, insisting on sight and perception.

    But also I agree with you that “eyes of trains” is an unusual image that “works” on a level deeper than I at least could write about, or even want to write about. It’s a (going retro here) surreal image, in the best sense of that word.

  5. Hilongos says:

    What makes poetry so wonderful is the fact that it involves all of life, every concern, every desire, and every feeling. If something has some great significance to a person’s existence, then it has a great significance in poetry as well.

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