Stories Are Made of Mistakes

By James Galvin b. 1951 James Galvin

Even the pole bean tendrils sought out and gripped their
frames within six hours of my setting them.
                                                               One of the things
that is breaking my heart is that I can’t trust language to
express any thanks.
                            My pole beans, my honeybees, my coyotes,
my dog, all my good horses.


The black mare I shouldn’t have bought and bought, and once
I had, should have shipped, bucked me, too, the first time
I got up.
            But God she was a beauty.
                                                 I thought if I just rode her
I could ride her down.
                               Her name was Sara and we kept it at that.

All she wanted to do was run.
                                          Ears back, flat out, nose pushed
into the next life.
                         I wanted her to learn to walk.


After about a year of chop I turned her uphill on a good gravel
road and said, “OK, you bitch, you want to run?”
                                                                      I let go
her head and gave her the steel.
                                                I’d never been on a horse so
      I’ve never been on one since.
                                                So fast you couldn’t
count the beats in the rhythm of her gait.
                                                                         But when,
after some miles, she started to flag, I said, “I thought you
wanted to run,” and dug her out again.


The pole bean tendrils sought their frames within six hours
of my setting them.
                           They broke my heart.
                                                            They gripped.


A patch of sunlight mottled the shade.
                                                       Whether she never
saw the root that snaked through the shadow or was just too
far in front of herself, I’ll never know.
                                                      She stumbled
and fell.
            First on her knees then over.
                                                      We rasped together
down the gravel road, black mare on top of me.
                                                                     We rasped
to a halt.
             She jumped to her feet.
                                                She stared at me.
could see the bone in both her knees.
                                                      Ribbons of hide hanging.

Blood like volunteer firemen beginning to rise to the occasion.


Ten years later, today, I’m riding her.
                                                       I keep her reined
in most of the time.
                            She tosses her head, snaps tie-downs.

She dances and whirls, doubles under and rears incessantly.

She makes me the butt of ridicule:
                                                 “So, uh, Jim, how old
is that mare?”
                     “She must be twenty now.”
                                                             “Don’t you think
it’s time she was broke?”
                                    Every once in a while I let her
run and break my heart.
                                    Anyone watching stops breathing.


If I ever get to heaven and know who I am, I’d like to over-
hear my daughter tell a story to her children.
my dad used to ride this black mare...”

James Galvin, “Stories Are Made of Mistakes” from Resurrection Update: Collected Poems 1975-1997. Copyright © 1997 by James Galvin. Used by permission of Copper Canyon Press,

Source: Resurrection Update (Copper Canyon Press, 1997)

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Poet James Galvin b. 1951

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

Subjects Relationships, Pets

 James  Galvin


James Galvin is the author of several collections of poetry, including Resurrection Update: Collected Poems, 1975–1997 and X (2003); a novel, Fencing the Sky (1999); and The Meadow (1992), a prose meditation on the landscape of the Wyoming-Colorado border and the people who live there.

Galvin’s work is infused with the genuine realities of the western landscape, while at the same time not shirking difficult questions of faith, . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Relationships, Pets

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

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