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The Collection of the Canter.

 Three days a week, into that stable of pre-adolescence I strode,
where the smell of Absorbine and hoof dressing rose astringent from the
cross ties, where a girl in muddy boots circled a curry comb, where the
language of bridles and bits rolled in my mouth as I said d-ring snaffle
  and rubber pelham, Kimberwicke
 and hackamore.
 And I learned
a horse must come to the bit, you cannot force him to collect himself,
you must ask him with your weight and legs and hands. The girl walked
her horse into his stall, unbuckled the halter, and hugged the V where
the breastplate left a sweaty place she scrubbed away.
We grazed them on braided nylon ropes or leather lead shanks. Tornado,
the open jumper, wore quilted leg wraps daredevil Debbie knelt to
secure. Summer Saturdays we trailered to shows, entered classes where I
came to understand class as the father who rises at five to pack hoof
pick and shedding blade. My father didn't see the point, came late,
wore white loafers. I was
the only Jew until Judy Cohen came with her black thoroughbred, her
father, the rabbi, known to my family. Throat latch, cavesson, browband,
laced rein.
 I loved the bridle's vocabulary, the music of martingale
 and curb chain
hanging in the tack room, where I came to understand class as Stubben
saddles with brass name plates. I never
had the confidence but I had an ear. I never liked the nervous circling
before the jumps or jumping but I loved the words oxer, wing standards,
jump cup,
women in show coats and proper fawn breeches, gloved hands steady at the
withers, at the sitting trot, at the collected canter, over the jumps
and then the slow circle to mark a faultless round, applause, doff of
the hat.
She swung her leg over and casually slid off, reins in one hand, a Coke
someone gave her in the other, glamorous even in the exercise paddock,
counting off strides between jumps. You never lose your early memory of
class: tack room with gleaming bridles hanging in a figure-8 style,
where you waited, belonging, with the others for your ride home. 

ROBIN BECKER is the author of Tiger Heron (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2014); Domain of Perfect Affection (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2006); The Horse Fair (2000); All-American Cirl (1996), which won the 1996 Lambda Literary Award in Lesbian Poetry; Giacometti's Dog (1990); Backtalk (1982); and Personal Effects (1977).

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Title Annotation:seven poems
Author:Becker, Robin (American poet)
Publication:The American Poetry Review
Article Type:Poem
Date:Jul 1, 2016
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