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.

18 thoughts on “Sport-Heart

  1. I don’t get (don’t want to?) the last line. Everything else is clear. Must visit a horse I know, when I go to town next. She snuffles my bag for goodies. Puts her huge head over my shoulder.

  2. Got it! Took a while. I can be amazingly clever sometimes and other times appear almost retarded! 🙂 If this really happened then I’d like to let Ervin know how sorry I am.

        1. At first I thought the horse had to be put down because it threw the rider, so no, not really stupid, it happens often enough that the innocent animal has to bear the blame. 🙂 Your husband must’ve felt terrible just the same, even if he couldn’t help it. Much regard.

        2. Of course! The horses I got to know (a little bit) when I came here were definitely playing with my cat. They’d play at chasing her away because she was jealous of the attention I gave them. A horse had to be stabled because of an injured leg (just a slight wound) and it called and called her mates until I went to sit with her to keep her company. She remembers me when I go there now, not so often as I’ve moved out of town. Horses are highly intelligent, sensitive animals.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.