Alan May

To Be That Boy, to Be That Horse
April 25, 2020 May Alan

Alan May and I were in graduate school together at the University of Alabama.  We’ve been close friends for 25 years.  We’ve shared poems and thoughts about poetry all along.  We approach the craft differently, I think, but we’ve always shared the idea that poetry matters to us deeply.  Neither of us expected or desired a “career,” however: it was always more personal, a practice to understand ourselves and our lives, and how to belong to the world.  I think we both understand that the poetic is out there, something to find or discover, and the poem either of us makes is a record of the momentary connection to something beyond individual experience.  Alan comes at this connection in a singular way—in usually brief, spare, and often cryptic poems of razor-sharp lines.  Some may encounter Alan’s poems as surreal, but they are very often composed of real things in the world—a horse and a boy are real.  It’s Alan’s arrangement and spacing and stepped-back perspective that twists the reality.  “This is how we are, this is our inclination,” the poem seems to say.  I have always found Alan’s angle on how we may belong to the world to be persuasive and shocked with quiet beauty.
–Maurice Manning






To Be That Boy, to Be That Horse

I’ve watched a shy horse
stand quietly and stare
into the woods at branches

trembling in the thicket. I’ve felt
the horse muscling under me
as it galloped and tried to buck,

as it calmly carried me
through the pasture. Once,
when I was a child, a teacher

told me about his father’s
horse, a horse so gentle
that when the loose saddle

shifted and my teacher,
then a small boy, fell
to the ground, the horse

stood still, its hind leg
in the air, as if the horse
were pondering where to put

its heavy hoof. I wanted
to be that boy. I wanted
to be that horse.

Alan May works as a librarian in Knoxville, TN. His most recent books are Dead Letters (BlazeVOX, 2008) and More Unknowns (Dead Academics, 2014). You can read more of his work at