MY BEST POLO-PONY, CHLOE
Give a horse what she needs
and she will give you her heart in return.
Before I bought her we played stick-and-ball.
Just as I smacked a shot beneath her neck,
she planted her right foot, pivoted toward
the airborne ball, left me laughing on the ground.
First owned by a pro who couldn’t find her whoa,
his bit-yanking loosened four back teeth and packed
her shoulders with arthritic throbbing sand.
Teeth extracted, joints urged to spawn synovia,
her heart continued to push adrenalin through pain;
upped her speed and passion as each game progressed.
Once we got bumped hard in a tournament:
“Looks like Campbell’s coming off!”
said the announcer as I launched into space.
But she swerved to stay beneath me,
held her head up as I landed on her neck,
maintained course until I slid back to the saddle.
“I’m your polo pony— don’t do cross-country,”
she would whisper when we hit the trail, treating
turn-arounds like home-sweet races, do-or-die.
When I walked to her corral with her,
she’d bring her cheek to mine, listening
to my recaps of our workout or a chukker.
In one of our last polo games the ball sailed past
her nose; she planted her left foot and pivoted
to chase the ball, dumped me on the ground.
“But don’t you want to win?” she asked,
looking down as I lay paralyzed
for the longest thirty seconds in my life.
She grew gradually more breathless her last year
but gave me everything she had for one big tournament;
two weeks later she refused to eat, panting as she stood.
On her final day she touched noses with her pals,
walked beside me to the west end of the polo field,
tugged weakly at some withered blades of grass.
My wife and I hugged farewells to her shriven frame,
then stepped back as she took the doctor’s needle.
Chloe crashed unconscious to her side, her spirit
spurring her to gallop gamely as she died.