Saturday, February 18, 2012

Reprinted from The Brayer, January 2012

Photo by Jennifer Singleton—
borrowed from
with thanks to Kathleen Conklin

The Bold and the Brayful 
A column by Fenway Bartholomule

Rest in Peace

I used to have a mule hero. His name was John Henry. He did terribly mulish things—hunting, showing, pulling butcher's carts. He was elegant, tremendous, and noble. He inspired. 

I never got to meet John Henry, though many of you did. I'd venture a guess that no mule graces the pages of so many BRAYER's as John Henry. He was truly one in a million. 

FarmWife, who has a business writing poetry, wrote this back in the summer when we were all still reeling from the news of his sudden illness and death. As Thanksgiving passes and Christmas inches closer, FarmWife and I can't help but be grateful that we have each other, our family, our friends, and our health. May the new year keep us safe. 

My earful thoughts are with Kathleen this holiday season, as they are with each of you who lost someone close this year. May you find joy in your memories. 

John Henry

Beloved? That's not good enough. 
A friend? The word's a shadow. 
There is not language strong enough.
All phrases feel too shallow. 
John Henry, indescribable—
John Henry, so adored—
These words may scratch the surface,
But his life was so much more. 

Charisma? Yes, he had it.
Charm, intelligence? Those too.
He was an athlete and a star,
A brave and soulful mule.
He made inroads where none had gone.
He forged his path, and yes—
he stole one heart completely 
and he made a thousand friends. 

There are no words. There is no way.
And yet a poet tries . . . 
What phrases, put together, 
catch the kindness in his eye? 
What words speak to his patience,
to his presence, to his smarts? 
What words explain the magic,
How he touched so many hearts? 

John Henry was the kind of mule
a person can't forget—
And so, although he's lost to us, 
His legend lives on yet. 
And if God has a pasture
Where his finest equines play,
Then there, upon those golden hills,
rings sweet John Henry's bray. 

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