Horse on a Plane

By Joyce Peseroff

Featured Art: Horses Running Free from The Caprices by Jacques Callot, 1622

A horse on a plane is a dangerous thing
if the box he’s persuaded to enter shifts
like a boulder or a coffin fragrant with hay
but no exit and midflight he decides no way,
time to bomb this pop stand, burst out
of his lofty corral into a tufted field
asway with timothy, feathers, and prance.
You ask a horse—you don’t tell him—to trot
or whoa, easy there fella, and cross-tie him
with a knot meant to fail if he pulls back.
When the plane bucks, a horse can launch
steel shoes through aluminum, the hiss
of oxygen dropping down the masks.
Then his groom must place a pistol barrel
in the nearest ear and whisper, Easy;
carried on with apples, sugar, and oats,
the gun follows the horse on every flight.

Joyce Peseroff‘s sixth book of poems is Petition. Her fifth collection, Know Thyself, was a 2016 Massachusetts Book Award “must read.” She was founding director of the MFA program at UMass Boston; currently she writes a poetry column for Arrowsmith Press and blogs on writing and literature at

Originally appeared in NOR 20.

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