Matthew Spireng


“. . . as more horses than we need.”
– Tess Gallagher, “If Poetry Were Not a Morality”

I’ve often felt one is more horses than I need,
not fond of riding, knowing all the work from
the horses my wife once kept—feeding and watering

and grooming and getting in hay on a hot summer day
and coughing from hay dust in the throat, itching
from hay dust on the skin, the sadness at having to

put down an old horse who survived his last months
on cheap beer and hay he chewed as best he could
with cancer in his jaw, who without question followed

as he was led to the edge of the hole that had been dug
with a backhoe for his grave. Now, after the storm
that knocked out power to millions and days later

has resulted in a shortage of gas at the pumps
in New Jersey so people are driving long distances
to get gas—using more gas to get gas—I think how

a horse might prove to be a necessity to get around,
and once was. But water can’t be pumped without
electricity now, and the barn would be dark, and

more horses would be needed to get in hay
and transport it, and so what I think of as
more horses than I need may really be too few.


Matthew Spireng’s book What Focus Is was published in 2011 by WordTech Communications. His book Out of Body won the 2004 Bluestem Poetry Award and was published in 2006 by Bluestem Press at Emporia State University. His chapbooks are: Clear Cut; Young Farmer; Encounters; Inspiration Point, winner of the 2000 Bright Hill Press Poetry Chapbook Competition; and Just This. Since 1990, his poems have appeared in publications across the United States including North American Review, Tar River Poetry, Rattle, Louisiana Literature, English Journal, Southern Poetry Review and Poet Lore. He is an eight-time Pushcart Prize nominee.