By Andrea Cohen Andrea Cohen

After Elinor Lipper

The creature that had once
been a man handed over his petition,
a stained and grimy scrap,
handed it to his lord and master,
a petition asking to be transferred
to the status of a horse.
You son-of-a-whore, the master,
kicking for good measure, bellowed.
What do you mean by this?
The creature that had once
been a man, having considered
deeply his petition, answered:
If I were a horse, I would have
one day off in ten. As is,
I have none. As a horse,
I could rest now and again
during work. As a former
man, I cannot. As a horse,
I would be expected to perform
work equal to my strength.
As a prisoner, I am always
hungry, and hungry, I
work less and get less
bread, so I can barely stand.
A horse gets a stable
and two blankets. I have
no blankets, no jacket.
If a driver beats
a horse too hard, he
is punished, for a horse
is precious. If the brigadiers
beat and kick me, it is like
beating a tree. So you see,
a prisoner is nothing here.
But a horse?
A horse is something!
Inside the frozen
and the broken
vista, the plea had a ring
of truth heard
even by the lord
and master, who had
previously been a man himself,
and who, when no other
former men could see,
attached that name
to the page, granting
the horse a stable and two blankets.

Source: Poetry (February 2011).


This poem originally appeared in the February 2011 issue of Poetry magazine

February 2011
 Andrea  Cohen


Andrea Cohen's poems and stories have appeared in the New Yorker, Poetry, the Threepenny Review, the Atlantic Monthly, the New Republic, Glimmer Train, the Hudson Review, and elsewhere. Her poetry collections include Furs Not Mine (2015), Kentucky Derby (2011), Long Division (2009), and The Cartographer's Vacation (1999). 

Cohen directs the Writers House at Merrimack College and the Blacksmith House Poetry Series in Cambridge, . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Social Commentaries, Crime & Punishment

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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