Monday, January 27, 2020

Last Roundup

Last Roundup

Remember me when I ran with my kind,
my hooves struck the prairie like a xylophone,
kicking up bees in the cowboy rose,
grazing the weave of sweetgrass stems,
red dirt-dancing in the south wind's eye.

Then you brought your infinite calves, 
wave after wave of threadbare sheep,
mines and guns and the oil machine
to steal the grass, to suck up the land,
to push and kill til the red stones weep.

Now that you've turned the bees to wind
now that you've turned the grass to sand
now that you've turned a dancer to meat
now that I've gone 
where the dead can't ask,

only horse-ghosts run while the sweetgrass longs
for the wild tap of hooves, the mustang's song.

 ~January 2020

 for earthwheel challenge

Notes:You may wonder how this is related to climate change, but almost everything impacting animals negatively today is so related in one way or another. In this case, the climate of the West and Southwest plains has been growing rapidly more arid for several decades, increasing the stress put on the land to sustain the wild horse herds, native species like elk and deer, and cattle and sheep ranching populations. The public land areas are also feeling the push for oil and gas development, as well as unregulated trophy hunting. The ones to lose in this scenario are the wild horses.

More info:  The American Mustang is a feral horse that is descended from domesticated horses brought to the Americas by the Spanish in the 15th century, and is protected under the Wild and Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971. Populations are "managed" by the Bureau of Land Management  who use a series of yearly round-ups and contraceptive measures plus an adoption program to keep mustang numbers down. While control of these populations is necessary to prevent over-grazing and over-population, the BLM's practices have been criticized time and again for cruelty, corruption and incompetence, while civilian animal welfare groups have relentlessly pushed to reform and control them, with mixed success. The BLM has been accused of turning a blind eye to mass "adoptions" where the horses are slaughtered for dog food, as well as for keeping large herds of animals penned up indefinitely without any plan for their fate other than eventual slaughter. 

Most recently under the Trump administration, things have swung round to the worse scenario level, as might be expected in a 'pay to play' government:

 from 2018:
 "The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) winter roundup season is upon us. The traumatic helicopter roundups that will be conducted this season are even more concerning than usual,  since every single wild horse captured is in danger of being killed or sold for slaughter.

Signaling its intent for America's wild herds, the BLM is planning to conduct numerous roundups simultaneously. The agency's increased capacity for rounding up horses endangers more lives and  proves problematic for advocacy organizations that intend to document the mass capture of mustangs from their homes on our public lands." ~American Wild Horse Campaign

from 2020:
 "The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is putting together the fiscal year 2020 roundup schedule. Once funding is approved by Congress in the fiscal 2020 debate...we may see the schedule explode to include up to 20K wild horses removed each year for the next 3-4 years. These will be the largest roundup schedules in history.
This will decimate existing populations. It is based on the severely flawed parameters of politics in the 1970’s and perpetuated through a program based on excuses and chaos ever since." ~Wild Horse Education

Photos: header © Bev Pettit, footer © Carol Walker  Fair Use


  1. Oh my God. Your poem brought me to tears. Horses are dear to my family's heart and my sister and I have long been outraged at the wild horse "round ups". The statistics for this and the next few years means virtually every horse will be gone. There is not a corner of your country that the trump ghouls have not destroyed. He keeps so many outrages going people cant rally to oppose anything, it is all too much - a very effective strategy, as it turns out. I am in tears. Thank you for singing this sad mustang song. I am going to send this to my sister, hard as it is to bear for anyone with a heart. Clearly the trump ilk do not possess one between them.

  2. It has gotten to the point where I am surprised when Trump and his cronies do anything that *isn't* counter-intuitive. It's clear they have no regard whatsoever for the natural world or anything else that can't put money in their pockets. As Rick Wilson points out,this is a guy who has spent his life in an air-conditioned tower. I don't even want to think of the terror and horror these round-ups must entail. It makes me sick to my soul.

  3. Wow! The cadence and tone of this poem is only matched in beauty by the voice and images--the red, the bees, the sweet grass-all endangered species. The essay, too, is compelling. I lay down with the longing sweetgrass, wherever it still grows.

  4. Well, you dug in and pulled it up -- note perfect and galloping with deadly frenzy. Humanity is the invasive species here, gobbling up land for development and extracting every bit of meat and bone to feed the machine. Putting the voice in the ghost-horse makes this all the more chilling, wild in motion and terrible silence. Is this carthartic? I can't tell -- such ghastly sadness in it -- but do we owe it to the horses? We damn sure do. Anything wild and free is fair game for us, or was until everyone started watching. Thanks. -- Brendan

  5. Sigh - I didn't realize this was actually going on but, it doesn't surprise. I think creed is the motive here and the current administration cares not for anything but money. Thank you for this informative post and your poem was amazing with it's pacing.

  6. The poem, in its mournful tune captures a vanishing world. So, so sad. Hope this 'horse round up' business generates public opposition. Oh!

  7. So much has changed, and even though we could argue that the wild mustang is an "invasive specie" for the purist, it has become such an important part of the landscape. Climate change is of course only one factor, it just adds up with all the other things that we manage to do.

    I do love the voice of your poem which I think really should be set to a melody and sung.

  8. Is there anything that hasn't worsened under this administration? I love your mustang song. I agree, could be set to music.

  9. "my hooves struck the prairie like a xylophone".....what an original simile! This is a poem and a folk song and is a pleasure to read, despite and because of the sadness and truth of the message...JIM

  10. What a beautiful, beautiful poem.


"We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, out of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry." ~William Butler Yeats

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