Autobiography of Horse (Excerpt)

Jenifer Sang Eun Park

In a photo, the body of a horse with a malignant tumor is cut for wolf feed. Hung from the neck, the body hangs on a scaffold of three wooden poles peaked into a tripod. The horse's rigid head faces west. A bloated tongue limps out of his mouth. Behind the hanging horse is a parched tree and behind this tree is a ditched school bus. Below, a man wearing glasses; a brown tank top; and a pair of light jeans, hole at the knee, bends to strip the meat from the hindquarters. Beside him, a wooden box where the cuts of meat will be preserved. The mane cascades the same shade of dusty blond as the man's ponytail. If the photo were cropped, it'd be a still of a rearing stallion. The horse's eyes are shut for the pleasure of being carved for another animal.

I split my own body to carry the horse inside me. I lasso my appendages and stretch them onto stakes. I pull the blade from my neck down. I see my cavity stuttering. For each inhalation I blame myself.

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Jenifer Sang Eun Park was born in Denver, CO. She earned her MFA in Poetry from the University of Alabama and is the author of the chapbook, When the Horse Lights the Night (Essay Press). She lives in Tuscaloosa and teaches at the University of Alabama.

Autobiography of Horse documents Jenifer Sang Eun Park’s obsessive and parasitic relationship with the horse. At one point a muse, the horse is transformed into a vessel used to travel the volatile hollows of memory, selfhood, depression, and loss. To make this journey, the horse mutates from an image into a companion, a projection, and a reflection that, as Wallace Stevens wrote in “The Noble Rider and the Sound of Words,” injects imagination with “the strength of reality.”

Presented in lyrical prose, diagrams, photos, and conceptual excerpts from imagined texts, Autobiography of Horse pieces together a true story spurred by a tormented, pathological, and, ultimately, redemptive imagination.

“The horse inhabits the poet . . . the way Kafka’s Gregor Samsa found himself morphed into a beetle. It is . . . the diary of young poet—the making of a particular one with a unique sense and sensibility. . . . The vision, if nightmarish, is broad and bold, never narrow or confining. . . . Above all, it stands alone. This is an original [that] won my heart.”
—Wong May, author of Picasso’s Tears

“Tristram Shandy’s enigmatic ‘hobbyhorse’ opened the door for theoretical (and theatrical) metaphor. Jenifer Sang Eun Park expands the metaphor in this searching hybrid text. Energetic and evocative, the author explores language as a Trojan horse, unpacking emotional layers to reveal an alternate consciousness in a unique, informative reimagining of the epic poem.”
—Jeffery Cyphers Wright, author of Blue Lyre

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