Waiting for the Lame Horse

Waiting For The Lame Horse
By Joan Burstyn
Published by Belle Mead Press, 1987

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Below each poem title is a sound clip of that poem being read by Joan Burstyn. If you have the latest version of Adobe Flash installed, music player will appear. Otherwise, you can click the link to play the poem on your computer’s default audio player.

Fresh Laundry

Fresh Laundry
(Read by Joan Burstyn)

Tear open the curtains         rip aside the blinds
make it daylight        and struggle
to straighten piles of laundry
thoughts      washed

in a painting class
                                  bright cameo among the etchings
a psychiatrist's wife
speaking for her husband

he says       you can always tell the state
of a person's mind by the state of her room

I recall his words she spoke
across the years
twenty years strewn across my life
clean laundry folded into a curriculum vitae
and three bundles        neatly parceled

but odd socks       half-seamed thoughts
lie on the tables and chairs        waiting for daylight


(Read by Joan Burstyn)

Stretched long
with feline strength
I arch my back
and contemplate
the day,

toss the hours
                            from hand to hand

juggle tasks
                       in the air

and with the luxury
of indecision

bury my head
                        in your flesh.

Animation for Respite created by Dan W. Jacobs, set to Joan’s reading of the poem.


(Read by Joan Burstyn)

Blown in the misty air
your hair falls
at your cheeks,
you are the elf-child
your lips and eyes
I would borrow
your shirt
to capture
for me
your form
to share
the wildness
of your untamed spirit
For once, just once,
may I, please, please,
put on your high-heeled shoes?And as you sort your drawers
I prance before the mirror,
I am you, my mother,
poised and calm,
I feel you
through the cold soles
of your shoes,
I smell you
through the musk scent
of my borrowed slip
I am poised and calm
as I twirl
I borrow your cup
sharing the feel
of you without
because you
would withhold it
if I asked
this once, just once,
to share the wildness
of your spirit
buried deep
beneath the cold soles
of your sheer
white shoes
instead, we search
beaches for your
discarded shells
and scavenge them
free to feel you
through the torn sleeves
of a cast-off shirt,
its pattern
trumpeting your wildness
tamed into rows
of hunting hornswe share you
only through the skins
that you have shed

Three Pictures

Three Pictures

1. Birds at Twilight
(For three voices in unison, followed by solo voice)

Voices (Group One)

Great              that!    Great               that    Great             that!
            day                              day                             day

Voices (Group Two)

Pip-     ette!    Pip-     ette!    Pip-     ette!    Pip-     ette!   Pip-     ette!


Voices (Group Three)

Bread,                                                  Bread,
           wat-     er      ch′        ee′se!         wat-      er      ch′        ee′se!

Solo Voice

French horns answering
strings; shrill phrases
repeated staccato
in the dusk.
A flock of birds
settles in the trees.

2. Rock Music
(For three voices in unison, followed by solo voice)

Voices (Group One)

hot     dry      hot     dry    hot      dry    hot     dry    hot      dry     hot    dry


Voices (Group Two)


sly     fox    sly       fox     sly       fox     sly       fox     sly     fox     sly     fox

Voices (Group Three)

I          love              I          love                   I          love                 I         love
                    me                 me                         me                        me

Solo Voice

In the house, summer nights,
urgent beat, flashing lights,
voices loud, music louder,
every muscle, working harder,
tension rising, temper fraying --
Hold it! while we pace the floor,
love is all we're asking for.

3. Spider’s Web
(For five voices, sequentially, followed by a solo voice)

Why should I do that when you don't?
I want to buy some shoes
We always end up arguing
I want to go to a concert
Sneakers are cheaper
You didn't answer my question
I want shoes not sneakers
I thought I'd explained that
Why not go to the theater?
It seems to be we always
So you don't care what I think?
Let's go to the mall
Where shall we go?
Why not the city?
Let's stay home
I want to read
I want my shoes
Can't we agree?
To the city
Shoes can wait
Stop now
It's me


Around the table
sharing food
between soaps and newscasts,
webs of conversation,
hang in the unswept air

latched onto, elaborated,
in the months, the years
of wintering.