Apelles Rides Off into the Sunset

Mia Kang

“ . . . he had some horses brought and showed them their pictures one by one; and the horses only began to neigh when they saw the horse painted by Apelles; and this always happened subsequently, showing it to be a sound test of artistic skill.”

—Pliny, Natural History, 35.6


Finished with the opinions of men, I appeal
to the horses. Who says a neigh


does not an affirmation make?

In the circles we run in


real evidence is at hand, and the eyes
have it. The paint rests


its case in the main

on a social calling: a horse


must believe there is another horse.

If so, a sound will sound. Pliny assumes


that what happens now

will happen forever, however


I tell you that not all horses
are created equal. Every


now and then, a horse before
a painting of mine


paws the ground a little. I see
myself in the animal’s eyes


and pray silently

for the sake of the history


of genius. The image stands
against itself. Sometimes


a horse has to be led

away. It takes skill to make this decision.


Photo by Bruce Robinson