“Colonel” (Kernel)

Chilmark Hay, Thomas Hart Benton


Perhaps, because she never saw the name spelled out,
or because she’d reached the age
when all her parents did seemed inane,
their leadership monumentally ignorant,
she always thought it typical,
if bizarre,
that they had named a favorite horse
after corn.

But when he really did get the colic
from too much cold water
on too hot a day, his withers
quivering with ribbed agony, shuddering
beneath fly and wheeze and barely lashing tail, and when
her mother, who loved
horses, propped him up
all day and through the night, her old
wives’ wisdom claiming
that a horse could never die
still standing–

And after the tug of halter gave way
to a holster of flank, the sprigged chintz
of her mother’s shoulder soaked
brown, a bandage not of blood but
dandered strain; let the horse lie
down, her brain
screamed; but when he flopped, his legs knobbed
sticks next to that bloat, the marbled pupils of his eyes
fleeing the oblivion of veined whites; her father’s face creased
like the ropes
he untwisted and arranged, a hoist
and tackle, her mother pleading with the horse
to rise, face pelted
pressed to long-lashed lids, muzzle–

The ropes proved handy enough after the end, the burial
of a horse a harsh chore

that she would have none of, not even watch; rather stood
in the maze of field,  pretending to wipe only her hair
from scalding cheeks, heart hurting
like a hard dry kernel
that has been made
to burst.


I am posting the above draft poem for Magpie Tales hosted by Tess Kincaid, who sets up a pictorial prompt each week and for the Trifecta Writing Challenge.   I am also posting with Real Toads, for Kenia’s challenge about “incomformity” where I am thinking of a meaning of irregular or disagreeing–here the disagreement (misunderstanding) between Colonel and kernel.  Check out the sites, and if you have time, check out my books!  Children’s counting book 1 Mississippi -for lovers of rivers, light and pachyderms,  Going on Somewhere, poetry, or  Nose Dive, a very fun novel that is perfect for a pool or beachside escape.

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41 Comments on ““Colonel” (Kernel)”

  1. Wow Karin, a huge amount of emotion in that poem, of all types. Great description, great characters and great lines:
    “pretending to wipe only her hair
    from scalding cheeks,”

    Sad story but I enjoyed the poem!

  2. Awww…how sad. I always head that about horse too, if you can get them to stand up, they wont die. This is so heartfelt, filled with deep emotion. Did you actually experience this? If you did, it must have been heartbreaking to see.
    Powerful write Karin.

  3. brian miller Says:

    dang….vivid, i could def see it and feel it…i was hurting right there in the end with her….did you actually see this..really i think you had to to be able to write it like this….

  4. David King Says:

    This is almost too good! How did you get all that from an admittedly interesting image? I stand back in amazement applauding!

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Ha! Thanks, Dave. You are always so kind. It has been very frustrating because I scribbled it down Sunday and then was too busy with other things to have the time to type it out and edit bit. (Sometimes I write on computer and sometimes notebook.). And I worried that thisMag week would go by before I got to post it. Then I could put with some other image I guess, or draw something,because although it came from the Benton, it fits a bit oddly– I was thinking of the strain beneath those smooth surfaces, that the doors to the farm buildings had splinters, etc. K

  5. Mama Zen Says:

    This is gorgeous writing!

  6. vivinfrance Says:

    This hit me in the solar plexus: we used to have a pony who regularly suffered from colic when there was too much grass in the paddock, despite shutting him up for a large part of the day. I walked him round all night more times than I can count.We had a really special relationship as a result. Long after he had been sold, when my daughter grew out of him, we heard that he’d died alone in his field while the new owners were away.

  7. hedgewitch Says:

    Love in all its forms is a hard mistress, never more so then when we face the limits imposed on what we love(and on ourselves) here by mortality and physical reality. You made everyone in this poemm, including the horse, painfully real. Reminds of theSaint-Exupéry line
    ” You are forever responsible for what you have tamed.”

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Thanks, Joy. You are right. BTW, so sorry to harass you about your compelling Rebellion poem! k.

      • hedgewitch Says:

        Not at all, K. I’m always happy to hear your thoughts on my poetry, and very flattered you pay so much attention to the way it operates. We all need feedback that goes beyond shallow praise.

  8. Karin, this brought tears to my eyes. So well expressed, heart-breaking.

  9. heart hurting
    like a hard dry kernel
    that has been made
    to burst.

    I just LOVE this description, Kay!! Excellent writing!!

  10. Claudia Says:

    i once was in the cow stable as a kid when a calf was born death…this brought me back to it with her emotions…really felt this..excellently penned..

  11. Dang! That’s a hard read, K! I knew right away it wouldn’t end well. Great writing!

  12. Helen Says:

    Really ~~ this is amazing!

  13. My sister keeps horses, specifically old horses her neighbors don’t care about anymore. She has seen her share of death and will lie in the field with them until they hush their last breath…

    This story is evocative, emotional, has a touch of folklore. It’s excellent writing, Karin, and I’m so happy to have found it at Trifecta. Amy Barlow Liberatore

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Oh, Amy, that is a lovely, if sad, image. I will check everything out. I’ve been a bit crazed today, but will get to it. Thanks much. Glad to be part of Trifecta! (Anything with a triceratops!)

  14. margaretbednar Says:

    Horses are such a responsibility. (but worth it!) The confusion of “kernel” is so funny.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Yes, I tried to stress it – maybe over stress it – at first I had a “part of an ear of corn,” etc., but I liked just corn better, and I figured people would get it by the end. k.

  15. Tess Kincaid Says:

    Excellent write K…I love love love “her father’s face creased
    like the ropes he untwisted and arranged”…

  16. harvee Says:

    I thought the man toiled even more than the horse in the painting, but I can see that it would remind you of the loss of a faithful friend/worker.

  17. Sue Anderson Says:

    Just beautiful. I loved it.


  18. I liked you you played with colonel and kernel; the emotion and description are beautifully done—from the marbled pupil to the shuddering wheeze.

  19. Lumdog Says:

    I liked this story and it reminded me of a few nights standing next to a horse trying to keep him on all fours.. The line about the corn was funny.

  20. Annabelle Says:

    Beautifully done. I’ve never had any personal connection with horses, but the human feeling here is universal.

  21. jannatwrites Says:

    Beautiful writing. I could feel her sadness as she stood in the field wiping her tears.

  22. Jester Queen Says:

    I loved the way that the misunderstanding about the spelling defined the little girl’s age, even as her parents’ hard work couldn’t save the animal she loved. Popcorn never sounded so tragic.

  23. Cameron Says:

    So much beauty and tenderness and realness in this.

  24. I loved the duality of the style of this piece, in that it can be read as a poem or a short story. The symmetry of colonel/kernel at the beginning and end was perfect and satisfying. And the imagery, particularly ribbed agony, really stuck with me. All in all, gorgeous piece.
    Thanks for taking part in our special challenge this summer. We hope you’ll join us again for the regular weekly prompts.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Thanks much. I will look in on you for sure. A lot of fun. I’m not quite sure this met the prompt, but I’ll be more careful in future! k.

      • I just had to come back and tell you that I loved this piece so much it was my winner until I realized you were under the word limit. I truly hope you come back and write for us again as this was stellar work deserving of a seat at the winner’s table.

      • ManicDdaily Says:

        Thanks so much. I also realized after posting it that it was too short. Crazy too, as I always think my things are too long! I will keep up with you. Thanks again. k.

  25. […] Here’s a little sonnet about a horse resting in a field and also about my grandmother, who loved horses.  A few years ago, I wrote another poem about this same story, called Colonel, that may be found here.  […]

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