Tail in a rainbow curve,
his mouth ruffling the air like a golden flute,
his hooves glittering in rapture,
with cocked ears, he’s off,
to what improbable sapphire mountain?
Above the thick reek below of rage and grief,
of fire-blasted cities, starving children, skewed old men
proffering grey worn-out eyes
and great bellies, he skims.
Where he goes, also,
is afflicted with wild armies,
furious combustion and loss.
So, he flies as part of it,
through, between, beneath,
hooves flickering sparks, nostrils flaring,
his heart knows it all.
He skips a little dance of joy.
© Andrew Glaze, from Remembering Thunder, 2002
My father’s love affair with Asian art, poetry, and culture, was particularly passionate in the 1970’s. At that time, he read and experimented with writing Haiku poetry, enjoyed taking us to an authentic Japanese restaurant in our neighborhood, and purchased a variety of books on Asian Art. I think of it as his “Asian Period”. It was during this time that he wrote “The Trash Dragon of Shensi”, ” A Little Han Horse”, and began writing a poem titled “Issa” which is about the Japanese poet and Buddhist monk named Kobayashi Issa. The latter is included in his 2015 book Overheard In a Drugstore.
The little Han horse that inspired the poem is actually a statuette that sat on a shelf above my father’s desk in Manhattan. Of humble origin, it arrived at our home when he subscribed to a Sculpture of the Month Club that was probably affiliated with the Time-Life publishing company. It is based on “The Flying Horse of Gansu”, a statue from the Chinese Han Dynasty that was unearthed from a tomb in 1969 and which captured the public’s imagination. The horse is said to be standing lightly on a flying swallow or hawk.
I remember my father telling me how much he loved looking at it. At some time in later years it was accidentally knocked over and the tail separated from the body. Then, during the move from Miami to Birmingham, it went missing among my parents packed belongings and they thought it was lost entirely for a long time. At that point a kind relative presented him with a replacement that was very similar and my father was literally moved to tears.
I currently own the original along with its detached tail. At some point I’ll find someone to reattach it. In the meantime, tail or not, he continues to flare his nostrils, skip his dance of joy, and bring me inspiration from a well placed shelf in my living room.
My father’s little Han dynasty horse statuette. At the time he wrote the poem, it sat on a shelf above his desk in our Manhattan apartment.