myth of the horse king


From perilous dreams, the horse king
rose, so sure he’d be remembered
in the daylight.

He declared that everything was
indeterminate, unnecessary or incomplete,
and with batteries, many A’s,
he asserted iron-clad existence.

The once and never horse, ambivalence
on a bike, mentioned in a margin
for his bravery, and in a footnote,
impartially decapitated by a jury
of his peers.

the horse and I

Strangers were my scenery, the flitter
of my world. Off the powdery track,
I followed string connecting saplings
and wound round ring-barked trees,
an incidental isostatic tour.

Every creature was held entranced
by the horse king’s royal harness.
Fish leapt from the rivers to flounder on his shore,
and in his hair, the sparrows wove their nests,
their guano piled high upon his head.

At night, the king slept soundly,
resting on the skeletons of his enemies,
while a kangaroo and scrawny emu
stood guard beside his bed.

By day, he wore a fake mustache and
focused conversation on his decibels.
He called nothing into question,
into answer—even less,
and he never knew my name.


While I did the dishes,
Athena welded up a nameless horse,
and when she pressed a tiny lever,
her equine miniature pranced across the table.

Look at you, all incoherent haze
and frozen vegetables flambé.
Let some drift away,
there’ll still be plenty left.

Are you talking to me, or
do you mean the horse?


Now the horse king’s gone, lost with
all the kings and horses.
But I remember winter thoughts and gasoline,
when radios cracked the air like glass,
when the sun was in the lightning,
and he was somewhere else.


artwork burnt dreams (part above)

48 thoughts on “myth of the horse king

  1. What a beautiful mythical piece. This: “He called nothing into question, into answer—even less” And the visual of the sparrows nesting in his hair is god-like, then the guano piled high on his head! A really lovely piece that I’ll read slowly several times to get the full savor.

    • Sorry, BG. I think I kind of goofed with this comment, somehow. Maybe it vanished and reappeared, like a kind of magic trick. I suspect I pressed several wrong buttons at some point. Anyway, we discussed the two-faced nature of some deities further down. Thank you again.

  2. The gymnastics! I’m flabbergasted.
    The craftsmanship! Can’t even begin…
    The artwork and the colors (I see the state of Israel centered within)
    And in a sortof non-sequitur,
    The song, “Athena” – – Love that one, too. Check out the lyrics to it.

    • Thanks, Randy. Yeah, I do a bit of yoga, the Palm Tree pose, and I have been known to hammer this and that together. Seriously though, I’m flattered, also the artwork, more geographical than I suspected. 😄 I didn’t know the song; I looked it up and I can see the connections. It makes me wonder (just like Led Zeppelin) whether it’s because I was thinking of the powerful deity of Greek mythology Athena who assisted in taming Pegasus, and The Who were referencing the same deity?

    • I always liked the idea of flying horses, and always admired the gasoline station icon from a certain brand which uses a red flying horse image (I actually found a neat photograph from 1939 on Wiki of this iconic logo on the sign at a Tel Aviv gas station).

      Online theories proposed for the origin of The Who’s song title seem to offer a more banal response, yet, I’d have to agree that the end result would possibly indicate this so-called (mythological) deities’ name, as well.

  3. I imagine that the horse king would have fared better on a giant skateboard than on a bike.
    What in the world did he do to warrant being decapitated?
    A kangaroo as a bodyguard, I understand, but a scrawny emu? Then again, emus do have sharp claws.

    • I have to agree, except that in my mind he rode a motorbike. I suspect he was guilty of something, as we all are; perhaps it was an angry mob of French peasants, or his godfather who took action. 😄 They may not have been effective bodyguards. I suspect they just hung around, as they do on Australian coins.

  4. i saw a horse on the weekend, a sad lonely horse then i read your poem, i felt even sadder. sad because from your first stanza i thought how sad to go to sleep and wake up just the same as we were and not like that reality. but i was cheered up when i read that you do dishes! or was that a friend masquerading as your alter ego! you make me smile at my own thoughts, so love visiting your poems Steve.

    • Thank you, Gina, and I’m glad this piece resonated for you. It’s a collage of memories, some of them sad, some angry, although looking back, perhaps I see them with a little more equanimity, and a little fondness. In the last verses, the protagonist is close to me, and I can assure you that I do the dishes. 🙂

    • that you do the dishes gives me a lovely glimpse into the real Steve. and it’s a beautiful part of you to share. if we can look back with fondness even the memories that once were hurtful it is surely a step to healing and understanding ourselves better. forgiveness without forgetting is very powerful.

  5. I enjoyed this continuing change. I get the same problem about whether it is me or an animal being addressed…I know my place….

  6. This is beautiful. I love the stanza where sparrows weave nests in his hair which makes him seem God-like, then pile guano on his head! And also this: He called nothing into question, into answer—even less. Magnifique.

    • My schoolboy French is very limited, i.e., la plume de ma tante, 🙂 but thank you, BG. HK is based on real people, and I think it’s partly that people can seem to be godlike, role models, and then for one reason or another, you realize they’re not, or worse. Glad you noticed that line–it seemed to convey the meaning I intended, possibly without actually making sense. 🐒

  7. I started off reading your lines, then suddenly was transported into a dream where horses galloped and kangaroos and emus played–then yanked back down to earth watching someone wash the dishes while someone else was finishing their story. Incredible piece, Steve.

    • It is popular, but there is a low season, which is when dreams come true (in reality). This is generally around the peak season for normal travel. I like that fantasy has rules, even though they’re just made up. 😸

  8. Wow.
    I’ve never come across anyone who does humour/nostalgia like you.
    And I’d love to wax long and lyrical about your wordsmithing, but I’m not particularly good at that.
    So I guess I’ll leave it at wow. 😊

  9. Wow! I love the stanza: “At night, the king slept soundly,/resting on the skeletons of his enemies,/while a kangaroo and/scrawny emu/stood guard beside his bed.” It’s so specific and myth-filled at once.

    • Nothing like a bit of reality: that was exactly how it happened. 🙂 The horse king was a dream, and I did remember him, and know what he meant. Thank you, Sobhana.

    • Thank you for the comparison with the famous, Anna. I just read the summary. Maybe the small miniature of the horse king can do some good and possibly accidentally kill a bird. Then he will be rewarded in eternity. If I read it today, I would probably assume it was satirical. Maybe it was back then too.

  10. Thank you for always allowing me to escape to a mystical and magical place. As always I am such a fan of your work and the artwork looks mysterious and intriguing. Well done, once again. 👍🏼

    • Thank you again, Rhapsody. When I write, I am somewhere else, and it is such a pleasure for me to know that you can escape with my words. With the computer-generated artwork, I am always searching, but I don’t know specifically what for. This can make it hard to find. 🤓

  11. Wonderful atmosphere and art work. My favourite image is the sparrows in his hair! The last stanza is so evocative-
    “But I remember winter thoughts and gasoline,
    when radios cracked the air like glass,
    when the sun was in the lightning,
    and he was somewhere else.”

    Love it!

    • Thanks, Nikita. I was pleased with how the finale came out. It’s based on real events: the scenes that for some reason stay with you.

      I changed the artwork from the original. It was originally redder, cut raw meat. I like it but I thought it was a bit shocking and I chickened out.

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