Autobiography of Horse

A frenetic tour of a splayed self writing through an equine obsession, Autobiography of Horse documents 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, 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.”

from Autobiography of Horse

I ate the horse years ago and it still hasn’t left my body. A serving of horse is 28g of protein, 6g of fat, 5mg of iron, 55mg of sodium, 65mg of cholesterol, and a total of 175 calories. A serving of horse has 25% less fat, 27% less sodium, and 30% less cholesterol than ground beef. Horsemeat is low in saturated fats, rich in polyunsaturated fats, and proven to lower cholesterol. I watch the next horse butcher itself. And the next. The horse lives as a forever-cadaver.

Though previously endangered, the horse of Jeju-do, an island located in the Korea Strait, is still considered a delicacy. Due to its lean profile, the Jeju horse is more tender and flavorful when eaten raw. Once the meat is pulled from the stocky rectangular frame, it’s tossed in sesame oil for a light tartare, placed on a nub of rice, or positioned in a ring of thick slices on a decorated plate. Horsemeat, however, isn’t the only use of the Jeju horse: its soul is extracted and manufactured into creams and oils for beauty products and its bones are ground up and sold as pills for the treatment of arthritis and bone diseases.

Ancient Patagonian Indians extract the stomach of a mare to hold a baby. Once the soft packet of human flesh enters the sinewy stomach, a spiritual osmosis occurs. Encased in the wet and still-warm envelope of her stomach, the child is imbued with the qualities of the horse. Under a more vigorous procedure, the neck, body, and legs of the horse are lassoed. Members of the tribe distribute themselves across each end of the lasso to upturn and steady the horse. As soon as the horse slows her breathing, the father of the child slits the mare from the neck down. After the heart and innards are removed, the baby is placed in the cavity. The goal is to keep the animal stuttering until the child is placed inside his secondary womb. If achieved, the Patagonian Indians believe they ensure the child’s destiny as a superior horseman. The remainder of the mare is prepared for a feast and the community joins to savor the sum. A 150g bottle of Jeju Horse Bone Pills sells for $48.32. A 50ml container of Jeju Horse Oil Cream sells for $47.90. The Horse Oil Soothing Gel Cream is $12.84. And the luxurious Jeju Horse Placenta & Oil Natural Facial Cream is an even $124.00. Some of us are ingenious cannibals.

The night before my inauguration as king of Kenil Cunil, I’ll paint every white mare black. “See,” I’ll say when they look for the white mare. “She’s gone and there are none.” On inauguration day, I’ll walk to the center and ask to be cut and boiled into a broth. “Cook me,” I’ll say, “then gather the black mares and bathe them in my soup. Feed them my flesh.” I learned long ago how futile it is to resist what we feel. Hence, control lies in the absence of resistance. Impatient, I waited. Silent, I spoke. Mutable, I steadied. In the wait, the horse shed two legs and slipped through a seam in the mirror. The horse became that crucial bite—the beginning of a story gone awry.


A chain of white mares standing in pools of black-red-black chewing.

from Autobiography of Horse

Equine self-mutilation syndrome is a condition involving a repetitive and seemingly dysfunctional sequence of movements. An otherwise normal horse could develop a habit of biting herself from flank to shoulder to chest. Another otherwise normal horse could start shaking her head repeatedly, as if to say no no no to whatever distresses her. Though self-injurious, “the performance of a stereotypy, no matter what the initial precipitating cause, is self- rewarding.” Stereotypies have been associated with a variety of factors, such as excitement, stress, boredom, and the scent of poop or piss.

A few years ago I developed the habit of grinding my teeth. A committee would call it bruxism. My mom noticed this when we shared a hotel room in Colma. “You grind your teeth,” she said as we ate breakfast. I stopped eating and looked at her. I didn’t know what it sounded like, so I looked it up. A woman recorded her husband grinding his teeth in his sleep. It is the worst sound a human can make.

I sit in front of a building and watch who opens the door for strangers. “She is nice,” I say, when she extends her arm to keep the door pried open. She is not a horse. “He is nice,” I say, when he opens the door for others before he walks in. He is not a horse. I can’t stop.

Colma, a short BART ride from San Francisco, is popularly known as the “City of Souls.” With most of its land dedicated to cemeteries, the population of the dead exceeds the town’s living population. I know exactly what it feels like to live among the dead. My job is to talk to the dead. My job is to undo the living.

Major was a horse tired of life. For Major, the inclination for self-mutilation evolved into attempts to end. From the railway, a dead lighthouse. Past the billets of azaleas, the trestle bridge. Here, Major attempted for the first time. Though he understood the physics of falling, he tripped and caught his hind legs on the trestle’s latticework. He hung like a hinged apple until someone saw the black mass curling and uncurling like a beckoning finger. It took two hours to lower Major into the river and return him to his stall.

Sometimes I hear so many hooves, I lose my way back home.

Major tried again. He was found in his stall with his halter wound around his throat. He was half dead, with a wrecked blood vessel in his neck. They brought him back again. To leave and be brought back is considered to be lucky. Luck is nothing but an empty canteen in a winding trail of escapes and returns.

In my teeth is a city of souls, scratching to escape and neigh. There are no known causes for bruxism, but many cite stress as a factor. “Did I grind my teeth last night?” I ask my partner.

“Was it bad?” I try to do it when I’m awake and I fail. The pressure required to mill molars against each other for even the slightest audibility is too difficult to reenact. I floss out bones and watch histories trample out. I ate too many horses on my way here.

from Autobiography of Horse

According to Korean superstition, a “weak” person is more likely to be inhabited by a spirit than a person of “stronger character.” And in Korean, 말, pronounced mahl, means “horse.” 말 also means “word,” “speech,” and “utterance.” This is some kind of destiny.

I crushed hard in the beginning. The horse was an answer to each prompt. In the horse’s body, I saw the possibilities of my own body. In the horse’s past, I saw my own past. The horse understood me and I wanted to share this oblivion. There was no human to share it with. I shared a mirror with the horse.


Some explanations:
1. I just think horses are cool.
2. I was tired of seeing the sky in your eyes.
3. At the end there was a question mark.
4. I got lost on my way home.
5. The mirror needed fixing.
6. Because the past is more uncertain than the future.
7. My body is too small for my body.
8. No other mask seemed to fit.
9. I was jealous.
10. I shit my heart out & needed a replacement.
11. I was playing the longest game of hide-and-seek.
12. I came upon a fortress & the door was locked.
13. I was experimenting with renewable energy sources.
14. My grandma is a horse.
15. My horse is not my grandma.
16. I am the Judas horse.