This is a more-than-normal self-indulgent post as I love horses and I love Raymond Carver. Well, I love his writing and what I know of him, or think I know. He had a way of expressing moments of our shared lives that were either very unsettling or very affirming and often both at once. His poem, "Asia," for reasons I can't explain other than my pure love for horses and the ocean, is among my favorites.
I spent the spring of 2010 at a house on the Atlantic in Old Orchard Beach, Maine. I can still feel the pressing of waves against my heart as I stood on the shore watching. One day I walked out in time to see riders on horses as they made their way down the beach. I stood in awe of what felt like an incredible gift from the world itself.
It’s good to live near the water.
Ships pass so close to land
a man could reach out
and break a branch from one of the willow trees
that grow here. Horses run wild
down by the water, along the beach.
If the men on board wanted, they could
fashion a lariat and throw it
and bring one of the horses on deck.
Something to keep them company
for the long journey East.
From my balcony I can read the faces
of the men as they stare at the horses,
the trees, and two-story houses.
I know what they’re thinking
when they see a man waving from a balcony,
his red car in the drive below.
They look at him and consider themselves
lucky. What a mysterious piece
of good fortune, they think, that’s brought
them all this way to the deck of a ship
bound for Asia. Those years of doing odd jobs,
or working in warehouses, or longshoring,
or simply hanging out on the docks,
are forgotten about. Those things happened
to other, younger men,
if they happened at all.
The men on board
raise their arms and wave back.
Then stand still, gripping the rail,
as the ship glides past. The horses
move from under the trees and into the sun.
They stand like statues of horses.
Watching the ship as it passes.
Waves breaking against the ship.
Against the beach. And in the mind
of the horses, where
it is always Asia.
~ Raymond Carver
Bottom photo: Edward Kreis