A wild horse in the sun

JumpingRide A Wild Horse

Ride a wild horse
with purple wings
Striped yellow and black
except his head
which must be red.

Ride a wild horse
against the sky –
hold tight to his wings

before you die
whatever else
you leave undone
once
ride a wild horse
into the sun.

Hannah Kahn (1911-1988)

I came across this poem many years ago, in a Reader’s Digest story about a child growing up with Down Syndrome. There is something so urgent about these lines. It remains one of my favourites to this day, even though I don’t really get the opening stanza. Why must the horse be purple and yellow and black, or any other colour?

But the rest of it – oh! It sings to me: at least once in your life, you must do something wild and unimaginable, something that you will be remembered for for the rest of your life. Whatever else, you leave undone, once ride a wild horse into the sun. At some minute level, I feel this is my purpose in life: to do that one impossibly crazy thing that will change something fundamental in the world. Am I setting myself up for failure with an aim so lofty? Will I ever do something that momentous? Who knows? All I can do is try.

Agustin and his father with the tractor they built.
Agustin and his father with the tractor they built.

Hannah’s daughter Vivian had Down’s syndrome and Hannah spent much of her spare time working with the differently abled. In the Reader’s Digest story, What Love Can Build, the boy’s mother takes courage in knowing that the poet too faced the tribulations she did. Her son Agustin loved trucks and cranes, and her husband decided to build a tractor along with him, even though how much his son could be a part of the project was uncertain. The poem, she felt, expressed perfectly why she decided to go with her husband’s proposal: “… everyone should have a chance to make one impossible dream come true.”

I leave you with a gorgeous scene at the end of Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, where Spirit, the wild mustang, leaps across the canyon and into the sun:

Source: What Love Can Build by Meg Laughlin, from the Miami Herald’s Tropic, June 21, 1998. Subsequently edited in Reader’s Digest, p. 80-84, May 1999. © 1998 Miami Herald. A link to the original article is available here.

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