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Petition

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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)

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

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Petition

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