Jenny by Paul Depasquale. He recently gathered together some of his previously published poetry into a collected works. This is one that made the cut. I cried as I listened to as a child.
I remember old Jenny, the bottle’o’s mare,
And the day they singed the hair off her belly.
It reminded me of things not worth a damn
Like the sacrifice that Abraham nearly made
(No one had told me about Jesus yet).
Old Sam the bottle’o’s cart was bogged
In black mud, axle-deep, and would not budge:
Four of us heaving, and Jenny straining,
But the mud was too deep (after a whole night’s raining).
My old man, a sensitive guy,
Was all for letting the day go by and trying tomorrow
When the ground was dry.
“Bugger the bottles!” my old man said,
“The mare’ll strain till she drops down dead.”
“By Christ,” snarled Sam, with spit on his mouth,
“Fetch me some straw, Johnno, out o’ that there shed.
She’ll move the cart.” Johnno and Sam made a heap of straw
Beneath the mare’s belly. Sam struck a match.
I had a funny feeling in my insides
Like a rat was having his breakfast in there.
“Listen, Sam,” said my old man, putting his hand
On his countryman’s shoulder. “Give her another chance,
Don’t light the straw.” The rat stopped eating.
Sam said, “One last chance, Steve, and then by God
And Jesus and all the sacraments and angels
And all the saints in heaven I’ll burn her belly
With the damned straw.” The rat was suddenly hungry again.
We shoved, and Jenny pulled, then Sam stuck
A rusty four-inch nail into the mare’s rump.
“God!” laughed Johnno, “didja see her jump?”
Jenny screamed for mercy and the trickle of blood
Ran down her arse and into the mud.
Sam struck a match again, and lit the straw,
Fire in my insides from the rat once more.
Jenny snorted, and stamped in terror, stirring the thick mud.
Johnno giggled and slapped his thighs, while old Sam scowled;
Somewhere in my consciousness a siren howled
“Put that fire out!” but nothing happened,
Except that Jenny’s eyes grew bigger with staring
Between her blinkers, and I stood hoping, but not daring
To say out loud, “Put that bloody fire out!”
My old man said, “Sam, I’ll go over the road
And ask them to come with their tractor.”
The fire was nearly out by then for Jenny had trampled
The last of the straw into the mud (Johnno had run for more).
There was blood in the mare’s nostrils as well as on her rump,
She quivered her lips as though she wanted to speak.
“You bitch of a mare!” Sam shouted wildly,
“Making a fool of me in front of my friends.
Take that, and that, and that, and that,
And that!” And he kicked her in the belly
Five times quickly with his hob-nailed boot:
And she trampled in the mud some more.
When Johnno covered her back and mane with straw
She was so frightened that she tried to roll
And got tangled in her gear, her near hind-leg over the chain,
And then old Sam started kicking her again.