She Had Some Horses

by Joy Foster

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

It is very difficult to differentiate the characters we encounter in the poem "She Had Some Horses." There are two clearly defined characters in the poem—one of whom is the third person narrator, who is seemingly omniscient, and the other of whom is the protagonist, the "she" who possesses so many different horses. However, interestingly, we do not know anything about the identity either of the narrator or of the protagonist herself—one could even ask whether the narrator, who seems to know so much about the inner life and the loves and hates of the protagonist, is simply talking about herself in the third person as a means of creating distance.

The other characters in the poem are, of course, the various "horses" the protagonist has. However, defining these horses is a more complex issue. As the poem progresses, it becomes clear that they are certainly not literal horses. At first, it seems that they might be the speaker's own internal demons, built of the earth around her, the sky, "fur and teeth." As the poem goes on, however, it seems that the horses are possessed of human characteristics: some of them "laughed" while others "licked knives," expressing extremes of behavior.

There is a femininity to the horses, too. This is emphasized, or suggested, by the repetition of "she," but there are other things about the horses which seem to represent facets of womanhood. Some are "shy," and some "spit at male queens," suggesting that they themselves are not male. The horses are "afraid," some not wanting to call themselves "horse" and others keeping their voices "secret." Some have no names, and some have many. The idea of fear repeatedly occurs: the horses feel powerless as if they are either waiting to be saved, convincing themselves that they are saved already, or fearful of ultimate destruction.

These horses are both loved and hated by the protagonist, although they are "the same horses." Possibly we can understand the horses to be the many facets of being a woman, the many women the protagonist has known in her life, or a combination of these.

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