The Ponies



The ponies show up for the picket line
on the snakey company road.
They have chin whiskers and they snort.
They avoid the oil barrel flames
prick their woolly ears at the flapping
placard UMW ON STRIKE.

The ponies live up in the scrub growth
and have since their forebears
were turned loose from the mines.
Children say to each other, how many
ponies you reckon there are?

Playing under their mamaw’s porch
the children say, blind and they turned them out.
Above them their papaw lights up. Their mom yells,
Daddy, what’d they tell you
about smoking with your oxygen?

The ponies live in the woods where
the children’s daddy finds molly moochers and ginseng.
The children wonder if they, the children,
could tame a pony for their very own.
It would be black and they’d name it King Coal.

Through dark round eyes
the ponies gaze upon
the broad river, feel its tremor
in their fetlocks and untrimmed hooves.
They flare their nostrils. They huff
like mamaw snorting at papaw’s cigarette.

The ponies study every detail
space-pngthe ruffled blush of sedge in the wind
the cat picking her way through the dry teasels
a child’s red dress rippling on the line.


Faith S. Holsaert has published fiction in journals since the 1980s and has begun to also publish poetry. She co-edited Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC (University of Illinois). She received her Master of Fine Arts from the Warren Wilson Program for Writers. After many years in West Virginia, she lives in Durham, North Carolina, with her partner Vicki Smith, with whom she shares 10 grandchildren.


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