My reputation preceded me
to George’s Riding School in Salzburg.
I’d trained for steeplechase in Hungary
and had the build and strength of a jockey,
the will, and whatever it is that passes
between horse and man when their intents meet.
Also I bore the name Janek
and the horse that my grandfather rode to fame
still stands in the museum in Hungary.
Kincsem by name. Stuffed like Phar Lap.
In Austria I rode for Baroness Eliza Mernhoff
but soon I realized I was not just her jockey,
I was her toy. She liked to flaunt me in public,
took me to dinners where there was more cutlery
than you could count and toffs everywhere.
I preferred the company of horses.
I loved the power of a horse, the speed, the strength, the urge.
I loved the lift of the jump, the thunder of the race
but mostly, their individual characters.
But it all came undone the last time that I fell off.
I was used to broken bones. I had five from previous falls.
But this was different.
The problem was not four more broken bones.
The problem was losing consciousness,
not when I fell, before I fell. It was why I fell.
The horse and I were gathering for a jump then — nothing.
Sport-heart, the doctor said. Heart murmur in English.
But I couldn’t trust myself again, not with the life of a horse.
They had to kill that one.
From Sparrow: Poems of a Refugee, about my husband’s life. This from when he was a refugee in Austria.
The pic is from a notebook installation called Etcetera. It could be one of the horses Ervin used to ride. That horse would start dancing whenever it heard music. It wasn’t trained for it, it just loved music.