I read this poem last night by the American poet Kenneth Hart and was struck by how much the poem speaks to me about pack animals and the muleteers.
spend nearly all day
with their necks down,
lips moving an inch above the ground
as if they are whispering to grass.
Even in the rain, with its soft drone,
when their coats darken to a slick sheen,
you go out and watch them,
arms draped over a top fence-rail,
one foot up on the bottom board.
There is nothing ethical about them,
but they diminish the noise
in the landscape, calm it
with their elemental power,
which soaks like water into the hour.
The field is wide as a cloud.
It stops everything from hurting,
and the past begins to clarify itself
like an old marriage
seen from a distance of years.
Somewhere inside the horses,
secrets are stacked like plates
in a cupboard before a party,
and the guests are everyone
you didn’t allow to love you.
Big as dictionaries, their hearts
contain every word ever written,
as dusk bleeds down over the horizon
of their oily, reddened backs,
while a wren’s notes sexualize the air.
They will be out there all night,
invisible and snuffling in the dark,
even after you go inside and turn on the light,
then turn it off again, and lie down.
Why didn’t you allow them to love you?