Jack of Spades: The Horse Who Was Born as a Boy


Strange things happened; who knows why?
The wingbeat of a butterfly?
The flutter of a software bug
in programs running Earth and Sky?
The will of God, a cosmic ray,
its impact changing DNA?
A whim, a prayer, a faulty plug,
a blunder or a poker play?

Doesn’t matter, it’s occurred:
a change of places most absurd.
A bundle of supposed joy
was startled to be born unfurred;
like bees as birds, and birds as bees,
and hes as hers and hims as shes,
a horse was born as if a boy
and raised in human families.

He voted ‘neigh’ on ‘learn to talk’
and always used his hands to walk
and never to attack a meal
with proper use of knife and fork.
He whinnied for a mother mare,
but human mother, not aware,
assumed his brain would never heal
and placed the boy in foster care.

The horse-boy went from place to place,
exhausting homes at trotting pace
as so-called carers would perceive
a slowpoke of the human race.
They made him food but never kin,
derisive of the horse within,
till one day when he had to leave
a farming couple took him in.

“His heart is good, if not his head,”
his newfound foster parents said.
By day he’d never cease to roam;
by night he spurned his comfy bed.
With love, despite his skittish way
the farmers vowed to let him stay.
At last he’d found a stable home
and slept in there amongst the hay.

Big hearts, big stables, in due course,
the farm took in a crazy horse
and horse-man (for our boy had grown)
was floored by the attractive force.
He saw that she was not a mare,
but human woman stuck in there
And said, in human pheromone,
“Ma’am, you could ride me anywhere.”

They nuzzled, for she liked him too,
more’n any horse or man she knew.
Despite his foreign horsey smarts
he knew what she’d been going through.
They played till they were giddy
up the hills and through the city.
Mixed-up bodies, linked-up hearts
And shared emotions more than pity.

Strange things happen; who knows why?
The wingbeat of a butterfly?
The flutter of a software bug
in programs running Earth and Sky?
Whatever forces took the rein,
this act of horseplay’s not all pain.
It didn’t pull the final plug
and that’s why it may run again.

I’m a little late in publishing this one, since I went to Trogen for the weekend to see The Burning Hell play at Viertel, which is my favourite land-based concert venue, and will probably continue to be until I host a house concert. But to prove my dedication, I am posting this from a train on the way back to Geneva, as you can see from the photo of the playing cards in front of the train window.

The idea for this poem initially came from the Beehive card. The Beehive has people in it instead of bees, which reminded me of the lines ‘bees born as birds, birds born as bees’ from the song ‘Thing Game‘ (from the album ‘The Price‘) by Wax Mannequin, whom I’ve also seen play at Viertel. I wanted to throw in further reference to that song by hypothesising that the programmers of the world simulation we live in ‘pressed the buttons all at once’ but I couldn’t fit it in. If I ever get around to writing an iOS app, I think my first experiment might be an actual game based on Thing Game. You’ll have to press the buttons all at once, all of the time, even when you’re pressing buttons one, two and three, and there will be some lovely animations of bees hatching from eggs and birds flying out of honeycombs. The gameplay will be perplexing and it will be the most confusing explanation of the birds and the bees ever.

The idea of role reversal was further enforced, and turned into a human-horse switch, by the Guinness card of a horse in a cart being pulled by a person, which I also used for a poem on role reversal last cycle.

I had already seen the butterfly cod card and wondered if I could write something about a butterfly god, but it wasn’t until I was writing the beginning of this poem that I realised the butterfly effect could be considered like a god or even as a tool of a more traditional god, influencing the world in mysterious ways.

For the rhymes to work, this poem should be read in a non-rhotic accent that exhibits intervocalic alveolar flapping and does not distinguish groan and grown (sorry, New Zealanders.) I don’t know why I ended up with this rhyme scheme, but it’s a nice coincidence that I ended up writing eight stanzas of eight lines, usually with eight syllables per line. Perhaps I should make up some numerological quackery about the poem’s theme’s relation to the number eight.

This poem could be a metaphor about all sorts of things, or it could just be a lighthearted weird story with a horsey in it. It could be the kind of Disney movie that people who like getting upset about things could see too much in and get upset about. Interpret it in whatever way you prefer.

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