The Master’s Mule

One night
After months of rocky sharp steps
Under Iraqi sun and Ottoman moon
I plodded at the rear
Of the caravan of the red roan.

The pines came ever thicker,
Until their needles combed away
The Anatolian moonlight
And ink drowned my beacon,
The white fez of my Master ahead,
Now one with His wavy black locks.

Distracted, fatigued,
Attracted by a patch of weeds
Or the gurgle of a nearby stream
My tall ears did not even glean
That the crunch of hooves
And Turkish murmurs
And Persian chants had faded
To only the rustle of needles and cones
In a summer night breeze.

Off the trail, I paced the dark
And brushed the bark
With bulky saddlebags.

I drank my fill from a high stream
And stood altogether unaware
I’d defected from that team,
And I stood in silence.

Far under hoof, and near the antipode,
I heard with these tall ears
The whinnies at Gettysburg
Of other equine servants,
Splattered from above in the blood of other masters
Doing their best to tear this world apart
With rifle and sword and the name of the Lord
As fast as Master can put it together.
The antipodes of heart.

I was drinking from the stream as first light came,
And felt a hand upon my rein.
I turned to look, flattened my ears
And it was Him —
His gentle eyes, much older
Than His nineteen years,
A warm wide smile
Set off by a short black beard.
No scolding. No angry blows.
Only a warm hand on my neck.
And another on my nose.

For when He’d noticed I was absent
He’d alerted the warden-escort,
Who assured Him in a Turkish accent
Nothing lost in a thicket of this sort
Could ever be found.

But I carried something on my back,
Something I never really knew —
Papers in a box,
And other objects too.
Was it these or me for which He grieved the loss?

With permission
He had ridden out into the blackest night.
Whoever finds him first, He said,
Call out, or tell with firelight.

* * *

The sun was high over the land,
When we rejoined the caravan.
Cries of joy went up, and I stood a little taller,
When the search party led me in.

They rushed toward my saddlebags
Loaded them onto forward nags.
It was the boxes for which they longed,
Not me, I thought.
I hung my head and plodded on.

Just then I felt that hand again.
And it was Him now walking near,
Whispering in my tall ear
A gentle word, a loving tone.
He chose to join me at the rear
Of the caravan of the red roan.

–Ridvan 2009

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2 comments on “The Master’s Mule

  1. Thomas Davis says:

    This is wonderful narrative poetry–told with feeling.

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