by Pablo Capra
Photo by Bruce Dath
Princess, a horse known to many from the moving cycle of poems written by her owner Bond Johnson in Idlers of the Bamboo Grove, died on April 2 at age 34.
As Bond’s poems relate, he was forced to live apart from Princess after his house burned down in the Malibu fire of 1993. Fortunately, horse-lover King Zimmerman agreed to let Princess live with him in Lower Topanga.
“Where else would a Princess live / If not with a man called King?” Bond writes.
In a sadly prophetic moment, King told Bond “It’s only a trial, / But you know, Bond, / She’ll likely still be here / When I die.” King was killed by a hit-and-run driver while crossing Pacific Coast Highway in 2002. Shortly afterwards, State Parks relocated all of King’s tenants except Princess.
Princess endeared herself to several Lower Topangans. In addition to Bond’s poems, she appears in the poems of David Hayward and Catherine Holliss, who says that she decided to move to Lower Topanga after meeting Princess. In part, Princess became a symbol of Lower Topanga, and the stress of having to leave.
In April 2003, Bond built a small corral, then walked with Princess from Lower Topanga all the way to his home at Malibu Lodge, just past Tuna Canyon on PCH. But spurred by homesickness, the old horse tried to walk back to Lower Topanga when no one was looking. Bond found her unharmed on the PCH, and brought her back to her new corral, “As close to the old place / As we could get.”
Princess lives on in Idlers of the Bamboo Grove: Poetry from Lower Topanga Canyon, available at Lobal Orning. Below is one of Bond’s poems from the book:
"Soon Enough Now"
Soon enough now
The water in the corral will be dry
And there will be no need to fill it.
Soon enough now the grain cans
Will rest unopened,
Then be turned out for the birds.
Soon enough now the sun
Will cross the whole sky
Looking for a horse
Whose brown coat
It can dapple with shadows of Sycamore leaves,
And find only the empty earth
Where she used to walk.
So in these autumn days,
Let us banish
All who would scorn the mystery of such things.
Let us live each day left
With full hearts and open eyes,
So that when the end comes
We will know
Stood in the way
Of us and the love we shared.