Roan Stallion

Robinson Jeffers 1887 (Allegheny) – 1962 (Carmel-by-the-Sea)

The dog barked; then the woman stood in the doorway, and hearing
iron strike stone down the steep road
Covered her head with a black shawl and entered the light rain;
she stood at the turn of the road.
A nobly formed woman; erect and strong as a new tower; the
features stolid and dark
But sculptured into a strong grace; straight nose with a high bridge,
firm and wide eyes, full chin,
Red lips; she was only a fourth part Indian; a Scottish sailor had
planted her in young native earth,
Spanish and Indian, twenty-one years before. He had named her
California when she was born;
That was her name; and had gone north.
She heard the hooves and
wheels come nearer, up the steep road.
The buckskin mare, leaning against the breastpiece, plodded into
sight round the wet bank.
The pale face of the driver followed; the burnt-out eyes; they had
fortune in them. He sat twisted
On the seat of the old buggy, leading a second horse by a long
halter, a roan, a big one,
That stepped daintily; by the swell of the neck, a stallion. 'What
have you got, Johnny?' 'Maskerel's stallion.
Mine now. I won him last night, I had very good luck.' He was
quite drunk, 'They bring their mares up here now.
I keep this fellow. I got money besides, but I'll not show you.'
'Did you buy something, Johnny,
For our Christine? Christmas comes in two days, Johnny.' 'By
God, forgot,' he answered laughing.
'Don't tell Christine it's Christmas; after while I get her something,
maybe.' But California:
'I shared your luck when you lost: you lost me once, Johnny, remember?
Tom Dell had me two nights
Here in the house: other times we've gone hungry: now that
you've won, Christine will have her Christmas.
We share your luck, Johnny. You give me money, I go down to
Monterey to-morrow,
Buy presents for Christine, come back in the evening. Next day
Christmas.' 'You have wet ride,' he answered
Giggling. 'Here money. Five dollar; ten; twelve dollar. You
buy two bottles of rye whiskey for Johnny.'
A11 right. I go to-morrow.'
He was an outcast Hollander; not
old, but shriveled with bad living.
The child Christine inherited from his race blue eyes, from his
life a wizened forehead; she watched
From the house-door her father lurch out of the buggy and lead
with due respect the stallion
To the new corral, the strong one; leaving the wearily breathing
buckskin mare to his wife to unharness.

Storm in the night; the rain on the thin shakes of the roof like
the ocean on rock streamed battering; once thunder
Walked down the narrow canyon into Carmel valley and wore
away westward; Christine was wakeful
With fears and wonders; her father lay too deep for storm to
touch him.
Dawn comes late in the year's dark,
Later into the crack of a canyon under redwoods; and California
slipped from bed
An hour before it; the buckskin would be tired; there was a little
barley, and why should Johnny
Feed all the barley to his stallion? That is what he would do. She
tip-toed out of the room.
Leaving her clothes, he'd waken if she waited to put them on,
and passed from the door of the house
Into the dark of the rain; the big black drops were cold through
the thin shift, but the wet earth
Pleasant under her naked feet. There was a pleasant smell in the
stable; and moving softly,
Touching things gently with the supple bend of the unclothed
body, was pleasant. She found a box,
Filled it with sweet dry barley and took it down to the old
corral. The little mare sighed deeply
At the rail in the wet darkness; and California returning between
two redwoods up to the house
Heard the happy jaws grinding the grain. Johnny could mind
the pigs and chickens. Christine called to her
When she entered the house, but slept again under her hand. She
laid the wet night-dress on a chair-back
And stole into the bedroom to get her clothes. A plank creaked,
and he wakened. She stood motionless
Hearing him stir in the bed. When he was quiet she stooped after
her shoes, and he said softly,
'What are you doing? Come back to bed.' 'It's late, I'm going
to Monterey, I must hitch up.'
'You come to bed first. I been away three days. I give you money,
I take back the money
And what you do in town then?' she sighed sharply and came to
the bed.
He reaching his hands from it
Felt the cool curve and firmness of her flank, and half rising
caught her by the long wet hair.
She endured, and to hasten the act she feigned desire; she had not
for long, except in dream, felt it.
Yesterday's drunkenness made him sluggish and exacting; she
saw, turning her head sadly,<
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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Robinson Jeffers

John Robinson Jeffers was an American poet, known for his work about the central California coast. more…

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    "Roan Stallion" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 24 Sep. 2020. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/32839/roan-stallion>.

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