Pitching Horseshoes

April 21, 2006 at 8:33 pm 15 comments

Claudia Emerson


Some of your buddies might come around
for a couple of beers and a game,
but most evenings, you pitched horseshoes

alone. I washed up the dishes
or watered the garden to the thudding
sound of the horseshoe in the pit,

or the practiced ring of metal
against metal, after the silent
arc – end over end. That last

summer, you played a seamless, unscored
game against yourself. Or night
falling. Or coming in the house.

You were good at it. From the porch
I watched you become shadowless,
then featureless, until I knew

you couldn't see either, and still
the dusk rang out, your aim that easy;
between the iron stakes you had driven

into the hard earth yourself, you paced
back and forth as if there were a decision
to make, and you were the one to make it.

Taken from Late Wife, a collection of poems for which Emerson won the Pulitzer Prize in poetry this year (see my review of the book here).

This is one of my favourite poems from the first part of the book. I like the unusual, lonely image of a man pitching horseshoes late into the night, the clanging and metallic flavour of it, the way Emerson makes it so vivid, so easy to picture. And I love the way this seemingly innocent hobby becomes a metaphor for so much more, for a sort of stubborn isolation, for the struggles of a man thinking things through over and over, trying to get it exactly right.


Entry filed under: 'New' Poetry, Claudia Emerson, English.

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