Friday, November 14, 2008

Kim--Congrats for the Pushcart Nomination

A good friend of mine wrote a non-fiction short story which was published in the last issue of Shenandoah magazine called "The Blue Hour Before Sunrise." It's a heart-breaking tale of when Kimberly acquired an abused mare after the death of her own son, and how she worked through her grief during the process of training her.

I found out this morning it was nominated for a Pushcart Prize!! Yahoo!! Congratulations, Kimberly!

I think it will resonate with all of you--knowing your own big hearts for horses. Kimberly Verhines has a heart for them like our own. Her writing combines all of my favorite themes--familial relationships, journeys, longing, forgiveness, and horses.

I'll add a few excerpts from it this morning, but, unfortunately, the only way to read the whole thing is to get a copy of the Shenandoah, Fall 2008--or wait until the collection of Pushcart essays is published. It deserves to be read in its entirety because each memory flows into the next and tells the story. It's one of those you want to read fast because you're hooked and emotionally invested in the telling--then you go back and read it again and again.

This will give you a feel for her language:

"I blow on my raw palms. Harold removes his cap, then rubs his head and chuckles, perhaps at my ignorance, perhaps at my bravery. More likely, he laughs because he is going to have $250 in his pocket, and the crazy mare will be someone else's problem. The bargain will not include a handshake. No papers to fill out. However, if I buy the hay, the mare can stay on his land. He'll feed her. "When the roads turn icy you might not make it out," he says.

"Oh, I'll make it." I am not afraid--of blizzards or icy roads or careening my car into a tree. In point of fact, I buy the mare because I believe she will kill me, though I will not admit this for years.

Then later in the piece:

"After a while, I get too hot and pull off my sweatshirt, hang it on the gate where Margaret's sitting on the fence rail, smoking a cigarette. She drags her hand down the side of her neck to her shoulder. She tells me a horse bit her there. "Wasn't even a year old," she says. "I kicked its baby ass and tied it to a fence post. Stupid thing nearly died."

"Nearly died? How?"

"Dumb filly tangled up in the ropes and fell. One was wound around her neck. The more she struggled, the tighter it got. She was half-dead when I cut her loose."
"What happened then?" I ask.

Margaret tosses her cigarette into the dirt. "She lived."

The ending doesn't give anything away, since the story is about the journey, so I will quote the ending to give you a sense of the poetry at work in her prose:

"This blue-furred morning, before the sun lifts over the trees and pales the moon, I bring nothing but myself. The ground is fanned with frost. Nearby, tomato plants hang fuzzy and limp as bathrobes, the fruit stunned and swollen with cold. Squash and zucchini vines crumple the ground, their woody stalks folded into the dirt. Fingerling cucumbers climb the fence, instinctively searching for heat. I rub the mare's legs, her belly and back as she nuzzles my shoulder, her breath warm and moist on my neck. I press my face into her fur and inhale the sweet smell of hay and horse and memory."


  1. Your friend's words are hauntingly beautiful.

    I saw the saddest piece about mustangs on the Spokane news last night. Dad kept watching, but I put my hand over my face and couldn't look at it.

  2. The line that does it for me is "I buy the mare because I believe she will kill me ..." as though maybe it would be a way to end her grief and join her son. Very, very powerful writing.


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