Edited and introduced by Wesley McNair, Maine poet laureate.

The late Kate Barnes often drew the horses she kept on her blueberry farm in Appleton. In today’s poem she chooses to write about them instead.

In the Pasture

By Kate Barnes

It would be impossible to draw these three workhorses

without a pencil of light

as they stand broadside to the afternoon sun

outlined with narrow lines of fire around their vast

chestnut forms, almost black against the dazzle.

The young mare swings her long tail from hip to hip,

and her Titian-blond mane hangs over her shoulder

like the ringletted chevelure of a Victorian belle,

innocent and alluring.

Beyond her

the two big geldings, brothers and team mates,

scratch each other’s wide red backs

with careful incisors.

Swallows fly

over the grass, cloud shadows cross the lake

and darken the blue of the hills on the opposite shore

but in the pasture the sun is shining,

the afternoon wind has driven off the flies,

and the three big horses are all at their ease;

a small, happy society

of souls who are gentle and do no harm,

who live in God’s pocket, who spend the long summer days

moving from sunshine to shade and back to the sun,

who want nothing but to be where they are.

Take Heart: A Conversation in Poetry is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 2008 Kate Barnes. Reprinted from “Agreeable Friends: Contemporary Animal Poetry,” Moon Pie Press, 2008, by permission of Kate Barnes. Questions about submitting to Take Heart may be directed to Gibson Fay-LeBlanc, special consultant to the Maine poet laureate, at [email protected] or (207) 228-8263. “Take Heart: Poems from Maine,” an anthology collecting the first two years of this column, is now available from Down East Books.