They stand like soldiers nodding on their feet,
Too tired to sleep, and much too tired to wake:
A row of sentries dozing in the heat
Of one more never-ending midday break.
Splay-legged and dusty-coated, plagued by flies,
They fret away their time in dreams of dreams:
One snorts, one grunts, another softly sighs
As sweat flows down their flanks in sticky streams.
This summer’s been too long, too hot, too hard:
For many horses it will be the end –
These last weeks in this long-familiar yard
Where many showing seasons have been spent.
For autumn brings the balancing of books,
With rosettes weighted against butchers’ hooks.
By Jonathan Steffen
First published in BABEL IX, Autumn 1995; republished in St. Francis in the Slaughter-House and other poems, Falcon Editions, 2006
Photograph kindly used under Creative Commons License, from Macomb Paynes