Mother, Barbara Lewis Duke

Mom was tiny, tough, and pretty.  She acquired the name Lewis because my grandparents had hoped for a boy and, for reasons I do not know, wanted a child named Lewis.  My grandparents named her younger brother Louis.  The following poem about my mother is one of the prose poems in my new book of poetry, On the Rim of Wonder, published last month by Uno Mundo Press.  Currently you can purchase it from Amazon or if you are in Amarillo, at Hastings on Georgia.  Shortly, it will be available on Kindle and signed copies can be ordered from me.


Barbie Doll


Barbara Lewis Duke, pretty, petite, blue-eyed and blond, my mother, one

fearless, controlling woman.  Long after Mom’s death, Dad said, “Barbara was

afraid of absolutely no one and nothing”.  They married late:  34 and 38.  He

adored her unconditionally.  She filled my life with horses, music, love,

cornfields, hayrides, books, ambition.  Whatever she felt she had missed,

my sister and I were going to possess:  books, piano lessons, a college education.

Her father, who died long before I was born, loved fancy, fast horses.  So did she.

During my preschool, croupy years, she quieted my hysterical night coughing

with stories of run away horses pulling her in a wagon.  With less than one hundred

pounds and lots of determination, she stopped them, a tiny Barbie Doll flying

across the Missouri River Bottom, strong, willful, free.





Cool Surf

Wednesday, I topped the little rise down the

long drive to my house.

Cool’s down, lying down,

not like a happy horse,

soaking up the afternoon sun.


Still dressed for work, I

rush, make him get up.

Instantly, I know, colic,

sadly go to the house,

change into jeans,

call the vet–he’s an

hour a way,

quirt banamine down Cool’s throat-

can’t hit his neck vein.

We walk and walk and walk,

waiting for the vet.

Cool’s hurting, distressed,

kicks my arm.

Vet and I load him in the

borrowed trailer as he

wobbles, half drugged.

Two giant bags drain into

his neck vein.

Vet listens, takes tests.

Result should read 2;

it reads 10.

In spite of hopeless odds,

the vet and staff work and

watch all night.

At 2:30 in the afternoon

a message on my cell phone:

Cool’s buried in the pasture with Miracle.

They’ve taken care of everything.

Stunned, trying not to cry at work.

Cool was fine when I left

Wednesday morning,

running the night before.

Stunned, remembering him as a baby,

the picture perfect paint.

Stunned, remembering how I

loved to watch him run,

head and tail up,

floating fast, joyous.

It’s Sunday now.

I walk out on my bedroom patio,

look up to his corral.

He always called to me, always.

Today, all I hear is the sound of silence.


Cool, the other orphaned horse I raised.


Horses in Heaven

Heaven for horses seems a bit far fetched, especially for someone who lacks certainty about heaven  even for people.  Nevertheless, it remains a comforting concept.  Yesterday, I buried Starry Miracle, less than two, an orphan I bottle fed every 3-4 hours day and night when his  mother, Miracle, died.  He not only survived, he thrived.

Around 4:30 Wednesday, friends went to my place to ride Rosie, a chunky, red roan mare.  They found Star dead.  It appeared he had been playing, jumping, and rearing, and freakily caught his ankle in a space between the pipe gate and fence, broke it and ruptured his femoral artery, then bled to death.  When they called to tell me, disbelief set in.  As a horse owner for many years, I know the common causes of horse deaths, colic mainly, from which Miracle died three days after his birth.  I have inspected fences and corrals for safety many times.  The possibility of such an accident never even entered my mind.

His body stiff, distorted,  his coat, lusterless, bore no resemblance to his burnished copper body, glinting in the sun, following me, nipping if I ignored him.  Often, I thought he thought I was a horse or he a human.

The two surviving horses spent hours standing in the spot where he died, licking the pipe fence from which I had hosed off his blood, smelling the ground, neighing.  They even failed to rush to their hay when I fed them.  Eventually, I opened their gates.  They ran across the rugged canyon land constantly for fifteen minutes, dream horses running in the wind.



Miracle, Star’s mother, deceased, July 2010.  Rosie who “adopted” Star after Miracle died, and Cool, the other orphaned horse I raised.

Miracle and Star as a newbornRosie, who "adopted" Star after Miracle died.