Home > Poetry > I Fell Asleep among the Horses
Kathryn Starbuck
Published: Fri Jul 1 2016
Art: Andrea Chung
I Fell Asleep among the Horses

I fell asleep among the horses
and Leonidas, my brother—that was
his name—had not taken his life.

I fell asleep among the horses
and before I knew it, the battle was
over and Sparta was mine. I looked
at the statue of Leonidas and wept. I
thought of re-naming it Katerina
since that is my name.

I fell asleep among the horses
and soon I was astride Aristophanes
and we were with child, and he was
to be a beautiful boy child who would
never haunt my dreams. We would
have no more wars.

I fell asleep among the horses
and Leonidas, my brother—that was
his name—had not taken his life. He
had decided to rule his rightful domain,
to mount his white horse. Together
we would ride to Leonidion, named
for him, on the far eastern coast
of arid Laconia.

I fell asleep among the horses
as Leonidas and I were leaving
Leonidion, conducting a dialog in
Doric. We spent a happy time on
the sunny plains of Argos. Our
horses sang to themselves then flew
us over Corinth to Athens. We
hugged the coast. We moved swiftly
with purpose, not stopping. When we
reached the base of windy Mount
Olympos, we said hello to old friends
but kept moving north then east as we
crossed Macedonia, speaking to no one.

At last we reached Thrace. We knew
it would not be long now. Our great
hope was to see him alive, waiting
for us as we entered Alexandropolis,
his city. Of course we were too late.
His statue looked down upon us; we
saw ourselves in his eyes, in his face.

Alexander, father, we said, as we
kissed his hands. How beautiful he was.
We had found our father even though he
no longer breathed. We thanked him. We
thanked him for giving us himself, for
giving us our lives and our names.

I fell asleep among the horses
and my father, Alexander, was alive
and Leonidas, my brother—that was his
name—had not taken his life.

Kathryn Starbuck’s poetry collections are Sex Perhaps (Sheep Meadow, 2014) and Griefmania (Sheep Meadow Press, 2006). Her poems and essays have appeared in Poetry, The New Yorker, The American Poetry Review, The New Republic, Southwest Review, Harvard Review, Ploughshares, and elsewhere. They have been anthologized in The Best American Poetry and Poetry Daily, and reprinted in the U.S., Canada, Europe, and in textbooks. She has received a 2016 poetry prize from Bellevue Literary Review. She edited, with Elizabeth Meese, two books of poems by her late husband George Starbuck. Southwest Review awarded her its 2011 McGinnis-Ritchie Award for nonfiction. (updated 5/2016)

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