Joan Colby


Saddlesoaping leather

cracks inhaling, softening

like kisses.  Fingers work it in.


The bridle suspends

from a metal hanger

like a frame or skeleton

where energy is contained.


I unbuckle

each of its parts

dismount the snaffle

its double rings too large

for an affianced finger.


Browband, martingale,

the reins loose and dangling

as the legs of prepubescent girls.


As if stuffed with monstrous cabbages,

his hard protuberant belly

traps me against the tackroom wall.


Hands fingering my hair lovely

auburn lips seeking, fingers.  I

struggle, duck, run into the stall.


My chestnut mare sways

her haunches.  Lustrous uncomprehending

eyes.  Arms around her neck, I tremble

our hearts beating together.


His footsteps, the stable door



My finger still greasy

with saddlesoap.  The smell

of new hay, manure.


The bit, polished steel,

a dulled sterling silences

what I will never speak.






Joan Colby has published five books of poetry: The Atrocity Book, The Lonely Hearts Killers, How the Sky Begins to Fall, The Boundary Waters and Blue Woman Dancing in the Nerve.  She has over 800 poems in such periodicals as Poetry, Atlanta Review, Hollins Critic, Portland Review and Barrelhouse. Recipient of a fellowship in literature from the Illinois Arts Council, Joan works as editor of Illinois Racing News, a publication for the Illinois racing and breeding industry and lives on a small horse farm in northern Illinois.