2023 Frontier OPEN Winner: Autobiography of not a horse by MaKshya Tolbert

Join us in celebrating this poem by MaKshya Tolbert, winner of the 2023 Frontier OPEN!

We’re so delighted to award “Autobiography of not a horse” as the winner of our $5000 OPEN prize. Please stay tuned as we’re publishing the finalists throughout December.

Autobiography of not a horse

I admit I am human   and am wondering

Who gets to write about horses   who gets

to follow cowbirds   following horses

Here’s my little autobiography of not a horse


Broken-winded   I reread a story about horses

There were nicknames   They hurt sometimes

He tried to brush the flies away   he wanted to

be shadefull   I wanted to be impressive


I was beginning to grow handsome   In my account

of not being a horse   She seemed to like me

He seemed to like me   We get so impressive

I wanted to seem grown   Sometimes I suffered


I’m sad to have said to myself   It was not really

so bad   I’m sad to have gotten so used to it

See those horses in a double harness   I strangle

with worry too   tell my sorrows to horses listening


Sometimes my account of myself is all

This is how I must live   duress for blinkers

The wrong practices fit   then the men

Sometimes   I can feel my legs again


Here’s my little autobiography   I was okay

being who I was   I did not try to be a horse

But I tried doing what horses do   I ran

with the letters   I was swift   I was grass

MaKshya Tolbert

MaKshya Tolbert (she/they) just found their way back to Virginia. MaKshya serves on the Charlottesville Tree Commission and is a 2022-23 Lead to Life Curatorial Fellow and New City Arts Spring Artist-in-Residence. Their recent poems and essays have been published in Interim Journal, Emergence Magazine, Queer Poem-a-Day, RHINO, and the 2023 Best of the Net Anthology. In their free time, they are elsewhere— where Eddie S. Glaude, Jr. calls, 'that physical or metaphorical place that affords the space to breathe.'

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