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Lois Red Elk Writes About Ponies—And Remembers Her Horseman Father

MoJo's Poet In Residence Shares A New And Older Poems, Both Exploring Two Powerful Forces In Her Life

Horses wander near the wild heart of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.  Photo by Todd Wilkinson
Horses wander near the wild heart of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Photo by Todd Wilkinson

EDITOR'S NOTE:  Mountain Journal is delighted to help Lois Red Elk-Reed debut a brand-new poem "Parallel Horses: A lesson from my father, the horse man" and another equine-focused poem, "Sunka Wakan Pejuta (Horse Medicine)"  from her acclaimed volume Why I Return To Makoce.  

 Parallel Horses
 A lesson from my father, the horse man

One Horse Owner gave me
this story of the spirit of a horse,
they are powerful and elusive and
can only be harnessed with promises
of water forever pure and flowing.
He said the horse was Wakan
a sacred being that leaned
into our space for our witness, a
kind of teaching to feed our spirit
One Horse Owner said we were
to learn from this 4-legged, by
learning to ride when spirits talk
to us.  You know, the kind of spirit
that wakes you in the night
to remind you that you dream
and walk lightly on earth,
for purpose, for messages
now and then, slowly, less we
be frightened away by the power.
One Horse Owner said the way
to ride this horse is to rekindle
relationship with all our spirits,
test each one for a particular strength. 
The sharing spirit will be the one
the Wakan horse will acknowledge,
will allow you to ride in parallel time.
One Horse Owner said you will
see images of yourselves in dreams,
you and the horse, on the prairie,
in the sky, through rain and snow. 
If you don’t see images, then you
have to pray.  Pray for an extention
to your dream.  It will come, that
is how you prepare, that is how you
will know you can ride a horse.

©Lois Red Elk

Sunka Wakan Pejuta  (Horse Medicine)

I can still see him, leaning on the railing,
enjoying the air, the track and the fortune. 
From the bare back rides on the flats
of his country home to the smartly dressed
jockeys of the city tracks he would find a race. 
Wagering a good amount of his pay check
didn’t faze him at all.  He knew horses
as well as any.  When he was at the track,
he would pick a horse, then in his mind,
paint symbols of speed on their hind legs. 
He called it his horse medicine.  I know his
little herd of Indian ponies ran around
in his memories and shared horse songs. 
He said, it was all about looking the horse
in the eye, recognizing a relative, sensing the
wild side of their lives.  He said horses told him
secrets of the flow of air, the working of muscle
and relying on spirit.  You see, dad spoke and
listened to the dialect of the horse nation. 
Before the race, he made sure to visit the stalls,
check out the nostrils and legs, feel their chest,
their pulse, then hurry to place his bet.  At times
mom and we girls would meet him at the tracks
and watch his smile as his horse would make its move.
We would jump up and down, shouting and urging,
and dad would just keep smiling.  I would search his
face for expression, for some secret horse exchange,
but it was always a look of confidence that his own
horse spirit was racing along, moving up and winning.

©Lois Red Elk

From, Why I Return to Makoce, Many Voices Press, 2015
Published in Whitefish Review
Lois Red Elk-Reed
About Lois Red Elk-Reed

Lois Red Elk-Reed is a poet who calls the high plains home. She is Mountain Journal's poet in residence.
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