- Vol. 03
- Chapter 11
This black horse. This chosen horse that will die of exhaustion by morning, every contract of its heart spent, every drum of hooves sounded. By sun up it will be immortal, white and marbled.
Three priests rode it down in the stampede.
Now here it is, this horse of Selene, standing alone, amputated from the herd, searching for pricked ears and scraping hooves in a vision stretching horizon to horizon.
But only the three priests circle.
Stunned to stillness after millennia on the grasslands—fight or flight broken—it ducks its head, snorting away the human smell.
Knife flashing on leather, stropped sharp and they all close in at once and this horse turns it head and bares the whites of its eyes. In slides the knife, parting the coarse hair and entering this neck and pink foams out as it thrashes clattering, spilling on the cobbles and they stand back to watch for meaning in the blood running between the stones.
Down it goes, head slowly dropping and eye glassing.
And up it comes, frothing and splashing, legs stepping through the ocean. This white horse, harnessed in pearl and dragging the glowing sphere from the depths, straining every part. And there is Selene, holding the rails of the chariot as they erupt together, spilling the oceans from rigging and wheels and lifting the orb into the dusk.
Hooves hammering and heart pounding and behind Selene is screaming in wild delight as she lives again and they pull the sun’s mirror free of the sea and bathe the night in light.
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'You're almost perfect, like the 350° vision of a horse.' This is the supreme compliment, combining as it does healthy realism and teen girl horse fancy. Unfortunately, paying compliments is a dying art form, practised by 1) people you already like and 2) creeps. Not so different from poetry, then! Between an ideal and the unattainability of that ideal there flows a broad, cold river called the Five Stages of Grief. If you mount the right animal to ford it, it’s like a fly-fishing holiday in Wyoming. If you don’t, well, at least they say that freezing to death is like going to sleep. Flawlessness doesn’t even look right, anyway. Any example of perfection you can give, I can improve with one fitful pixel.
After Kim Addonizio, Idioms for Rain
This is a feast for sore horses, an eye of a different colour -
so black they’re brown. Wild. They did drag me,
are dragging me in now. She was the apple,
I knew it from the moment she turned the corner, and I
laid horses on her. I can’t take my horse off of you,
nor change my eyes midstream. I was goo-goo
to the horseballs. She drove a coach through my portcullised heart.
We walked the Southbank, had champagne on the Millennium Horse.
You can lead an eye to water but you can’t ward against the evil horse.
Nor the third horse in the centre of the forehead. They told me
my horses were bigger than my belly, I didn’t believe them.
She gave her best bedroom, close your horses and think of England routine.
Then, in the morning, she was gone, in the blink of bloodshot. Of course,
I said I couldn’t give an eye’s ass, but I tried to find her,
searched the streets, kept my horses peeled and my dogs to the ground,
Lord knows, I called and called, but what use is shutting the barn door after
your last hope has bolted? They said, dry your horses, mate, in this life
it’s all a horse for a horse, a tooth for another horse if you’ve got one.
How could they understand a complete chestnut in the hand?
How to turn it over the sensed muscle in your mouth.
Cob nuts, hazel nuts
Green and sweet
Reach into hedgerows
For summer treat
Your reins are hard
against my skin
You are headstrong wilful
The Tarmac rings
With measured beat
I urge you on
Behind the boy
Behind the boy
I ride you hard behind the boy
Who turns his head to see.
I feel your anxious repose.
What ails you my beauty?
Who treats you so cruelly.
that fear is evident in your
dark brown eye?
You will rise up and find rebellion.
One day you will be free.
Break out of your chattles
and gallop away.
To a better life.
Where no man will haunt you.
and imploring eyes-
she was a charm,
my little 'Glory'.
Lapped and nipped
and swooned over pie,
but feigning sophistication
adhered to the rules.
The world was black and white and grey,
a 'pretty' loyal, she was my own stray.
Innocent as she seemed, she was no faint hearted,
as every sound, she bravely darted.
A savage fight
on a bloody day
with a selfsame another
took her vision away.
Running hither and thither,
she whined and pined,
as darkness made its way into her, unto her.
Those beseeching eyes,
now pale and teary,
tug at my heart -
But she still remains,
my beatific charm
My little Glory.
like a bridle through the mouth that halted
all movement with a sudden jerk of the reins.
Pulled up, short of breath, panting,
pawing cracked earth, sweat shivering
on quivering flanks, tense with unreleased gallops.
The potential for speed, stilled in a
movement borrowed from the tide.
The gaze is studded. The bearing ramrod. The carriage unbounded. The motion jerky. The pleasure unadorned. The progress careering.
The gaze is blind. The bearing wrinkled. The carriage smothering. The smell rank. The nap translucent. The journey shuffling.
The gaze is steely. The bearing powerful. The carriage exposed. The mount vertiginous. The intent insurgent. The puissance jarring.
Deep breath. Fingers slide on kitchen table, struggling with solid wood. Somewhere, I fall; a rhizoid journey, back in time. Down the rabbit hole, I open the file marked “Childhood Horses”.
There, I lie curiously in a muddy field, flat on back. Eyes open to the clouds. Stepmother looms, shouting, “Get up! Get up!” I push myself upright, pretend my legs don’t wobble. Another failed attempt to do-it-right; the horse riding, jumps, jodhpurs, neat ponytail, walk, trot, canter. Training. On Sundays, stepmother surveys the foxhunt through ink black binoculars. The foxhunt my mum says is “Wrong”. I try to please them, keep my feet in the stirrups, to ascend. Everywhere.
“Go on! Go on!” stepmother bellows, a jagged voice. She is obliged to break me in an un-groomed, step kid. Not a thoroughbred. She imprints me like a foal, introduces me to her human touch, and sticks me in a dressage saddle. But, everything is raw, untamed, wellington boots too big, because no one knows my foot size. Coat too small. Mud on chin. Straw strands crash in my bush of hair; I remount, swing one leg over, draw an arch with my foot, the gateway of my line.
“Kick! Kick!” stepmother shouts again, trying to make me ride right, to harness me. Maybe, one day, I will win a rosette. A frill of life, pinned to my chest, a dead butterfly. I dig heels into horseflesh. We bite on bits. Metal calms our tongues. Black rubber thuds on flank. Horse walks, trots and I bump, bump up and down, try to rise and fall to horse’s dance.
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dawn creeps, and morning mist, a shimmering
translucent-grey gauze, obscures field and hill,
concealing the face of fear with an umbered shroud.
(Who – who can know which way the wind will blow?)
So the pearl-grey dew, crawling over these leaden souls drips solitary tears through the armour of grey-eyed sleep,
as a white horse screams after some half-perceived phantom
soaring with lark-flight into an opalescent sky.
(Can the horse know which way the wind will blow?)
From that to this fixed stillness; the immobility of waiting;
pikemen, archers, the gently born, like so many grey statues
tipped with steel, honoured in the sun’s random knighthood.
Eyes and souls are one; neither boastful hazard, nor prayer
can truly know which way the wind will blow.
A flustered pennant subsides, embarrassed as at the false start
of a race, but stirs again, to filter through the army spread,
like a monstrous hedgehog, on Ambien Hill. Where it touches,
swift and cold, will there the eternal grey sleep reside?
(Only time can know which way the wind will blow.)
Its dying breath disturbs, almost imperceptibly, the dawn's
white horse; shivers upwards over flesh and armoured majesty; with faint chill anoints the troubled face and tortured crown
of him, who most of all, must ache to know
in which direction the wind will blow.
I count its eyelashes
I do not lose count
With one twitch of its ear
It swats the fly
Thrown off course
It stands perfectly still
As if it knows I’m counting eyelashes
Indulging my trivial task
I get to the end
I’m the only one that knows
Precisely how many eyelashes it has
I shoo it away
But it returns
There are others too
I begin the count
Going back to one
Again and again
Until the horse closes its eye
And the moon opens hers
But, if you could be bothered to listen, you’d hear my arrhythmic heart. You’d hear my terrified heart. You’d hear my exhausted, nerve-wracked, agonised heart. You’d hear my captured heart. You’d hear my bleak, unspeakably sad heart. But you can’t, so you don’t know that I love you: you think our relationship is all about you.
If you could be bothered to listen, you’d know I never know what you’re going to do next. One minute you’re putting fences round me or, worse, putting me in a box (and that travelling box is an absolute abomination), the next you’re astride me and expecting me to gallop my head off, sometimes against other poor Equidae. You never ask how I feel, although I do tell you.
But I made a plan last night, and I hope with all my heart it will work. You haven’t noticed how easily I open and close the door to my box but, by morning, I’ll be gone because, if my heart’s natural rhythm isn’t restored very soon, I will die.
But, if you should call after me, I will hear you. And if you do call, and if you show me you’ll never disrupt my natural rhythm again, I’ll return and teach you my language. If you can’t, it will be beyond my heart’s measure to listen to one more word.
He stares because he knows
Even after death hair grows,
Ripples in the wind tunnel of time.
He stares because he sees,
A school of corbeaux curating the city,
Pterodactyls hunting in tar.
These days, dinosaurs fly out the oily depths,
Saying time be damned, Earth be damned,
Give us another chance.
(from a phrase by Nathaniel Hawthorne)
When something is awry with a horse,
you can see it in their eyes if you have
the heart to look.
The Arabian colt stood, sweating and
shaking at the tie rack, shying at
shadows as people waked past.
His right eye was swelling closed.
“He ran into a wall, that one…”
came the explanation of the trainer,
whose lips were covered with white foam.
“He punched me”
came the reply of the horse.
To this day, I believe the horse.
My hand comes up slow to your nostrils
so you take in the all of me,
the all of me that seeks to nuzzle your cheek,
the whole that knows how we soothe
each other, the soft tips of your ears
turned to consider trust of my low shushes.
I am not predator, and for this moment
you are not herd, not chased, not pushed
to go anywhere except into the quiet
rustle of hay flakes where mice nest
in the straw and the gray barn cat
curls its tail against the sliding door.
You know all of this,
the over and over
how we gentle each other.
I do not write them down. I lose my pen.
Responsibility is mine alone
for shirking. For avoidance. So again
the moment’s lost. The naked page lies pale,
reproachful as a fish upon a plate.
Fragmented thoughts pile up, a rickety wall
I cannot, or I won’t negotiate.
Is it because I fear that what I make
is worthless? – shows me up to be a fool?
And is it that, despite myself, I take
others’ opinions as my measuring-tool?
It’s not so much a sense of what I lack,
as this knowing inward eye, that holds me back.
This knowing inward eye that holds me back,
that blinks and flashes when I write a line,
halts my intention, knocks me off the track,
waylays me with its will to undermine
what seemed original and almost fine
to my pre-chastened self – now finds me dumb.
That eye is knowing and that eye is mine,
and I, because I know it knows, succumb.
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to prison library
backs up flooding
cages of books
my brains are washed
by a short scientist
detectives trail me
arrested by police
giving up to
handcuffs & ether
now on train
1942 1962 1982
2198 1892 1294
screaming off track
burning 3rd rail
galloping away now
eating dust surfacing
in a swamp struggling
to reach green reeds
i am a
white would not rise
but for the smell of fresh
tar, the creosote stink of a bridge
to a place of cuts,
the promise of confinement.
Nights in grasses,
in the trees, when the fight
is merely against the visits of persistent friends,
the insects, nights when bodies
rise or lie down according to their own laws
and dance without knowing why,
the black eye closed is penumbra,
dark as clean water.
Every morning before school
When I fed you first
The golden rule
And you showed your thanks
By nipping my knees
Or stamping hoof on foot
As hard as you pleased
And the miles we hacked
Were no peaceful ride
As you blindly bolted
From tractors behind
And you threw me at will
Into ditch and dirt
And then grazed quite happily
As I lay there hurt
Bloodied and bruised
And so often in pain
Contemplating next day’s ride
When we’d do it again
*Bandit was my pony when I was growing up in rural Shropshire. He was completely nuts.
Slid like animation. Like marmalade
off hot toast. Right off the saddle.
I was soap on a slide from that
horse’s first stride. Dented myself
up a bit, too. Hit my head heavy
on the August-dry clay. Ended up
with a soot-black eye and a sprained
wrist that turned a tasty shade
of violet. So anyway the horse and I
headed straight back to the stables.
Fed it windfall apples the whole way.
Talked at great length about how
I’d remember this day for the rest
of my too short life, though probably
for all the wrong reasons, as I rubbed
my head. And that horse just studied
me with a long piteous look as if it
alone possessed all the knowledge
of the universe, and couldn’t believe
that I wasn’t privy to the same.
I love horses. Don’t understand them.
Don’t ride them either. Feel more
secure sitting in a rocking chair.
Not midnight black but deepest brown,
Rolled one eye, expressive and defiant,
Cautiously curious and determined to be dominant.
Tendering my trembling fingers, open
Palm of one hand in silent supplication,
I kept the other in my jacket,
Shuffling cubes of sugar in a pocket,
Relishing the sweet sting of anticipation.
Startled and skittering from a sudden motion
In the wide-angle vision of his other eye,
Both ears were pricked, his head held high.
I pursed my lips into a breathless pucker,
Whistled gently until I heard a nicker,
Watched his muscles ripple in a shimmering gloss
As he lowered his head to bring me into focus
And pressed his firm-lipped whiskery muzzle
Into my hand in the gentlest nuzzle.
before an unexpected birch,
its scatter of leaves.
In dreams, he'd graze below this birch,
its slender branches reaching
to a windless sky.
Now the meadow scuds away,
its close-cropped grass drenched
Without him, the sapling secures
its own horizon,
a knuckle of root sunk in the Earth
and that bruise of dark light above.
The structure is noted: blood vessels,
There is the sound of metal instruments
being placed carefully in trays.
No one registers
the smallest shadow of a bird,
a confetti of fireflies orbiting the trunk,
the stray leaf drifting to the ground.
The eye is bagged, discarded.
Surfaces are sterilized.
In his own dark world,
the horse waits.
Make me a root canal surgery appointment with Dracula for all I care, give him a spiked baseball bat and pen to draw a target on my fleshy bits; tear my fingernails out with hair straighteners; invite the ghosts of child murderers to haunt me in an outside lavatory with no lightbulb on a stormy evening off the west coast of Cornwall - just keep that teeth-shattering equine aspect from my immediate presence.
They call me nervous down at the stables. Jittery they say. They leave pictures of angry stallions drawn on the back of beer coasters in my duffel bag for me to find, just so they can hear me squeal as my ears pop and my pants become soaked. There's a video on Youtube somewhere of me rolling about in the hay after a particularly harrowing dressage event cursing the mother of Pegasus.
But I tell you, peering into the retina of that colossal eye is like brushing the lip of a black hole: when it catches you, and it will, it vacuums up your courage, reveals to you wild and irrepressible things, the stampede of life, your years in a blink, and you realise that all the trepidation and galloping anxieties you've ever experienced are not imagined but material. For the eye sees the truth, and the horse knows just as well as you do, what really goes into your beef lasagne.
bone cavities encase a thrusting mind...
your ears prick, ready for cantering and galloping.
Hairs on your head, taut like bowstrings
show that you are freaked out and ready to run
and run, onwards from this paddock
and out into open fields, cantering and galloping,
sleek with sweat, until whinnying with satisfied relief,
you are back where you started from
Clop, clop, clopping in light shoes
you finish in your paddock, locked in
for the night.
She decreased her pace as she neared the door. She open it one half at a time. Inside the stable, sheltered from the heat, a wide-eyed creature, panting, front paws punctuating the flattened earth floor.
(If it could speak it would agree with her.)
And so they met again, in silence - each longing for the other’s freedom.
the eye of the Houyhnhnm is on you.
Put aside your technology, and try
to look him in the eye.
He is not your servant.
Whose servant are you?
Jockeying for position,
you race around in circles--
but you always lose.
Today could be the day you learn how to pray.
Whose eye is more human?
Look yourself in the eye.
He can lead you to green pastures if you choose.
Tom knew that when he spoke to Sunshine and he stared at him with his big brown eyes, he truly listened.
keeping surveillance on what
we do, the eye that is cautious
in movement, but there is a slyness
what do you suspect? we the brutish
might attack you, your movement
of grace, leaves us asking what is
man, animal, mammal,
horse dog, you sleek fiend
you are neither roguish
I will build a home
for you, beloved.
but I am haunted with some ruby eyes, which
I have chiseled with my own salts. It's hard not to
get moistened by the lame Buddhas, or the gods
who have gone into innocent oblivion.
Please look at me with the same distance,
with the same ache of unnamable relation, reflecting
me silently on your crystal lattices.
The soul weakens, and goes all frail and malleable. Now
it can be welded into infinite shapes.
named Gingersnap. A dappled gray gelding,
called Captain Jack, so wide that in mounting
I’d pull muscles in my groin, gasp with pain.
But Captain Jack was easy, the calmest horse
you’d ever find, dull-eyed and temperate.
Not so Gingersnap, spicier and desperate
to nip the haunches just ahead—or worse.
And that’s how mild Jack, old Cap’n, came near
to trampling me, so small my knees could find
no purchase, could not clamp me to his back
when the mare’s teeth pinched his flesh—he reared.
Down his left I slid, belly up, not minding
reins in hand or high hooves’ impending thwack.
of a blind man’s eyes.
The rain has fallen like a kiosk
worn around man’s body
like a crown – around
instead of upon –
and the songs of a silent calendar
hang on a spotless wall
finding rhythm with the lightning
outside. My stable is a pile of hay
with an unsuspecting hair of gold
spun into an incorrigible mess.
I have been given a needle:
the eye the size of a passage
through which humility may walk.
Search for the strand
and stitch my sight to devotion
in exchange for human robes.
She made me think of the warning before my only fairground pony-ride, when I offered a flat palm of apple to the hulking velvety creature I was about to scale.
Now my simple task was to engage the little girl.
'Draw her out,' they said.
I padded into the disused classroom where she sat by the wall on a child-sized chair. A useful size but the kind of chair so utilitarian its flat laminate and metal frame offered only unfriendly iciness where enveloping comfort was needed. Her legs, covered by a black crushed-velvet dress were folded underneath her, throwing out her posture so she listed over the table.
Picture books lay in front of her. Their corners were burred, covers cracked and I knew how they felt without touching them: tacky, coated over the years with whatever children have on their fingers. She closed one as I approached and flickered a glance my way. I lowered myself onto the chair opposite and turned some pages.
'Farm animals?' Too bright. 'What's your favourite?'
She moved her head from one side to the other. 'Horse.'
Yet with strange aeons even death may die."
- H. P. Lovecraft, 'The Nameless City'
"Cast a cold eye
On life, on death.
Horseman, pass by."
W. B. Yeats, 'Under Ben Bulben'
If I am dead, then you must be
almost as nearly dead as I;
and I in turn, with dread, can't flee
from the certain grasp of the sky.
Almost as nearly dead as I,
we, both doomed to mortality
from the certain grasp of the sky,
for death shows no form of pity.
We, both doomed to mortality,
the horseman casting his cold eye,
for death shows no form of pity
in strange aeons, where one must die.
The horseman casting his cold eye,
and I in turn, with dread, can't flee;
in strange aeons, where one must die,
if I am dead, then you must be.
dark as the world's mirror
fastened in a parcel of bones and velvet.
the air was winged
and the field shuffled its grasses in the wind.
Hooves tore up the shadows
until the light became a voice.
everything is a zoomed-in stillness
where all life is black-rooted/
as one glossy sorrow.
In the air hung the argument, spiked words still present,
Tasting like rain, sharp and metallic, like the rust on the bike in your grandfather’s shed,
bitter to the tongue.
The fields in front were wet
And the mud clung in sodden clods to our boots
And in the distance the horse, a shot of chestnut, turned and began moving its grace towards us, ambling but with certainty,
so that at the gate
we stood, still hand in hand,
and reached beyond ourselves to the trembling softness of what was breathing,
what was willing itself to be touched.
Your unpredictable, whinnying nature
Your hooves, you’re big
Fast, strong, majestic creatures
Walking, trotting, galloping, jumping over improbable heights
Again and again and again.
Used for work, one horsepower
Used for money, a hundred to one
I don’t like horses,
But I wish you no harm.
chestnut pelt faded to shadows
by the dimness of the stable
in the run up to a turn in the weighing room,
but I found myself drawn
to the area between forelock and its left eye.
It’s a trick of the light,
I told myself … and edged closer,
it couldn’t really be an indentation
like the impact of a ball hammer.
The magnificent beast probably shied away
from all strangers.
The terror in its eyes
was a projection
of my ignorance.
as it looked out over the Steppes
or Mongolian grasslands
as it travelled in a herd
or was ridden by man -
be pack animal or food
I have seen this equine eye share
the conflicts of humanity down the ages
at Little Bighorn or Waterloo
in a decisive cavalry charge
break the will of infantry
while never passing judgement
I have seen the equine eye before
its orb take in all it sees
hold depths never penetrated
with wisdom older than man
sadness and light of another world
that we cannot - will not command
it is a positive eye
its negative would look different
mist into a shaded indifference
fade in the passage of time -
this equine eye is a positive one
invisible at the gallop
Was Richard III
They have found his remains at last
And so spread the word
He was known for his hunchback
Or was that Shakespearian spin?
He did fight Henry Tudor at Bosworth
Poor Richard did not win
The king in the car park
Under layers of tarmac
He murdered his way to the throne
Knifing close allies in the back
Shakespeare had him say
"My kingdom for a horse"
He gained and lost the crown
With a sword and by force
The king in the car park
Lay there for hundreds of years
The wars that were fought... long forgotten
Along with most of his peers
Technology, society, life is much improved
And England remains still a monarchy today
He was the last medieval king
I wonder what King Richard would have made of today?
heads hanging, shifting
in our plain suburban driveway.
They shimmered slightly, here
one moment, gone
the next. But they were there
still, when I looked back, when
I look back now, the sheen
of their coats against the pebbledash,
the pure incongruence.
The memories of his youth falls slowly onto his back in the form of a pair of rough hands, with soft touch. He sighs, feeling the breath run out of his nostrils, the way a child runs out of the school gates into the summer holidays, and he watches as the biting air traces the remnants of his breath, almost as if to colour it in.
'Blue. ' The deep voice calls out.
Blue looks towards the pair of hands caressing his rump, then to the equally stunning pair of eyes, all grey and brave, which leads to the man's clenched jaw.
He neighs softly, almost as if to let the man know that he's okay.
The man's jaw, covered in dark stubble, relaxes.
He looks at Blue, and smiles so warmly that Blue suddenly remembers the feeling of the sun, even though it is 7:56 am on a crisp, cold December morning.
He then looks at the old, wrinkled, constantly concaving man standing above him with a syringe.
'Must I? ' His master's voice suddenly feels very soft, and scared, Blue thought.
'It's for the best ,' The concaving man whispered, putting a hand on his master's shoulder.
Time passed, with no one to stop it.
Blue didn't like that.
His master had not given the wrinkly man an order to use that weird long sharp looking thing on Blue. Had he?
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Living in the suburbs so close the rural idyll, Jim delighted in seeking out new routes, or simply mixing up the well-trodden ones for variety. The boy was a loner and treasured what he called the “country” more than most of his friends or family.
It was a Thursday approaching autumn when he turned off Upper Bligh’s Lane to follow the Glassagh Road down to the Crevagh. Corralled in a loosely strung wire enclosure around the concrete bas of an old British Army checkpoint were four ponies and a foal; a taller than average black stallion keeping imperious watch.
Before Jim could fathom her moving from heel, she had bounded across the road and under the wires.
“Get back here!” Jim ordered more harshly than he’d intended. He was annoyed at the farmer’s negligence with regard to the ludicrous ‘fence’ and that irritation had slipped into his command.
Sheba stopped dead, staring adoringly at her master and then head-swivelling to pant excitedly up at her first ponies.
“Here!” Jim slapped his right thigh, and moderated his tone.
as the green dragon floats by
from flower filled puffs of breath.
Would you believe it?
this is not the usual sort of dragon
whose fire filled breaths register alarm.
But alarm registers, never the less,
as this is not the usual sort of dragon
and none of us are sure
what will happen next.
into the quick of the eye
of a crying horse
I am captured here
trussed like a pupating moth
in the horse's head
I hear his thoughts pulse
in the long language of horse
I wish myself back
grounded again in the yard
my iPhone to hand
a small palm sledging
down a long sloped nose;
flesh without the comfort of fat,
like an outgrown antler, velveted,
cloaks the bone and terror of a stag.
The eye whispers of olives, and fluids;
surface tension brims along the hairy rim,
ductless; some slick oil round one black sloe
picked by old hands. That old thumbnail bruise.
The eye shines like new bird shit on the window.
From above the trees nature lets me know it knows.
It plays docile, sad eye; thousand year egg toxic, unbroken.
so Aphrodite slips in through the loaded sea
comes ashore and looks around
i’m run aground with my tottering rosary of shells
the air swirling with the grief-stricken calls of oyster-catchers
so at first i don’t see her
her slipper prints
pearl beneath the bladder-wrack tell me that she’s here
didn’t you know that she writes messages
and leaves lug worms to post them in the sand as the tide goes out?
that she salts breezes tails and flanks with a clear day bright as a needle?
bobs orphaned rock pool weed out on a turquoise sea?
best of all she shines the blue glass bead of a cormorant’s eye
just as the horses wake and the sky resumes its call
she huddles into air- borne seeds to become
thrift wall pennywort roseroot
i tie the shells around my ankle
and begin to walk
this work is hard
but it pays well
and he can feed
the wife and kids.
In the morning
he throws crates off trucks,
and after lunch
throws crates again
till five or six o’clock.
But as he grows older,
and some say
ready to retire,
he has to stop
in the late afternoon,
mount his throne of skids,
let his legs drip over the side,
toss his head, inhale,
whinny and spit.
my right brain.
my left eye
you. your voice. angry. anger. danger. is it?
do i? do we? does the herd?
set, set, set.
my heart revs.
a dren a lin.
ready, twitch, ready.
time made your mood our threat.
your anger the wolf on the prairie.
your impatience an adder undergrass.
your oath hard iron in flight.
so if you don’t need to, just don’t.
step calm. breath gentle.
speak less. listen more.
hear. my. gaze.
Her parents could never give her enough of their time, even though they were spent, ashen-faced and bone-thin. Their physical decay still wasn’t enough.
So on her seventh birthday, her parents bought her what every girl dreamt about – her very own horse. Midnight black. Forged from the shadows.
Bethany immediately screwed up her nose. This horse was not the one she wanted. She had explicitly asked for a white one, sugar-white, pure and befitting a princess.
The horse watched her with large marble eyes, eyes which took in everything. Eyes which never blinked.
‘Do I have to feed the horse?’ she whined to her Mum. ‘It’s so boring. And ugly.’
‘Have you chosen a name for him yet?’ her Dad asked.
Her Dad’s smile disappeared.
‘Well, it’s certainly...original, sweetheart.’
Bethany called to the horse.
‘Come here, Horse.’
The horse, whose glossy coat reminded her parents of shifting shadows, didn’t move.
Bethany faced her parents.
‘See, it’s stupid. Can’t I have a white one instead?’
Read more >
Rushing from the crescent moon within your eye.
Caught in the flash, the fluorescent tube forms funnelled fire
Powering characters of a dozen sci-fi fantasies
Back into the darkness of that ocular sea.
Your mane's gentle fall, your melting-soft skin
Frame our sharp nightmares deep within your gaze.
When I look at your eyes, I succumb to life. As death is after life.
When I look at my own self, they say, we dance till death.
I own a life. You own your eyes. Together we won the bonding.
Bonding between life and death.
When I cry with my eyes, I remember you.
For all your love and arguments.
When you cry with your eyes, you remember me.
For all the sufferings together we had.
The eyes. Your eyes. My eyes.
Tell us silently, of our life and death.
in the heat of the sun.
My hips bled
I was beautiful
when I was born.
Now imprisoned in a cell of moldy alfalfa
I dream of pastures so wide
you cannot see the fences
I dream of apple trees so full
they drop apples into my mouth
I dream of my mum
Pretty mane flowing as she runs
We run so far
We leap the fences
I'm a beast, whipped monster
frail hair and fine claws
no more no less
but I buck backward
the more or less mode
call me a horse,
and I'll answer
call me a broken mule
and I'll come
with speedy obedience
call me anything
but I will never reveal
what my dark
I choose to
heed your commands
why I still, inevitably
into your frame
Once he arrives, they'll head down the jetty and catch a boat across the channel.
It's been three years since she last saw her brother. She fidgets with the rings on her finger, the new tanzanite and the greenstone from back home.
She wonders whether her brother will have changed or whether he'll be his usual very very proper self or whether he'll have totally transformed into a grumpy old man. She questions the wisdom of inviting her brother here in the first place, whether he'll find the lack of cars strange good or strange bad, how many times he'll get lost through the maze-like, narrow streets, whether he'll insist on wearing his fancy leather shoes for her usual morning walk on the beach and over the dunes, whether he'll be able to hold his lunch on the smooth sunset cruise. She wonders whether he'll get totally ripped off in town, whether he'll be able to bargain or whether he'll get suckered. She thinks of the look on his face after discovering the donkey shit everywhere and the screaming after a cold shower in the morning. No, possibly not a good idea, but it's too late now to chicken out.
Now, she can't help but laugh. He always did like a big entrance.
There her brother is, all but screaming in alarmed shouts, riding a galloping donkey, in a suit and tie with a good dozen kids running after him, laughing hysterically as they encourage the donkey on.
Her brother is riding into town on an ass. And hating it.
of what I know,
onto green velvet land and sun-tanned straw.
With heartbeat and hoofbeat,
the only path I want to take
Set free – I run past fields,
as if they are mountains.
I will the air to surround me with
more than just life breath –
to fill me with presence.
This gate is merely a suggestion.
I cannot be contained.
No saddle, no reins.
No man upon my back.
No – I am not this.
Seeing through to the clear light
on the other side of this door –
I see through you.
I see through me.
I lift the second lids of my eyes,
uncover the unnecessary shield,
unclothe myself of convention –
leave behind what you think I should be.
I will run.
I will gallop at full speed.
Just watch me.
The horse was NOT scared
I’m a war horse and nobody messes me with me
Not even aliens who think they’re big and hard!
Or so the horse defiantly thought
Well he also thought he was a horse but but but…
The horse was actually a spaceship!
Low and behold in all his glory
A real spaceship that was in space
To venture between the stars
And he was horse shaped.
But was made of aerospace grade materials
That was mined from distant asteroids
And built into a starship in a factory
That orbited Neptune for ease of use
For cosmic exploration and so more.
The horse shaped space vessel was big
Many miles high and across and heavy
Like the heaviest metal played by Compressorhead
Or mined from the most lucrative asteroid
Powered by fusion drive and ion engines.
He thinks this flesh - this hide - must be
what silver was created for; the subtle
black on black of contours - muscles,
instincts - barely seen but somehow
understood from shifts in tone
those shifts he reproduces now
with varying degrees of salt and
concentration - see the sweat
upon the brow of both.
And see the rod of light he borrowed
from.... a window? in a field?
the kohl surround that tells us ‘eye’;
these contrasts swim and surface from the dark.
It’s awe - or something like it -
A poor wretched brown one, dark as the night
When the moon shimmers behind the clouds
I lay my head low, resting, sorrowful, the beatings
The lack of food, the poverty of my keeper
He works me to the bone, to scratch a living.
Then I espy with my big eye on that day
The prince’s white horse is the chosen one
The ashvameda yaga needs a pure bred
White as the driven snow, sacrificed in the fire
I try to look away, but my eye is drawn to the fire.
Come; look beyond what you think you see and look into my heart. Nothing, you say? Well, try closing your eyes and looking. Can you see it yet? Oh well, never mind.
I used to believe that if you look into even the darkest of pools you would find it – a starlight even brighter than Sirius.
It also lived in you, once. But within us it flickers no more.
Come; let me carry you home.
Now, tell me of your life. Of the how and the why. No, please don’t tell me the how. But I need to understand the why, you see.
Speak to me. I am all ears, and a fine listener, or so I’ve been told. I was a fine husband, and lover as well – at least that is what she told me. I like to think that I would have been a good father. Can you say the same of yourself?
Come my friend; tell me your story. I promise I’ll not interrupt.
But before we begin, what way shall I turn? Where now can you call home? Shall we head east or west? To the north or south? You don’t know? Oh well, never mind, we’ll just trot off that way, I think, towards the mighty river, and if you decide otherwise, just let me know.
Hold on tight now, I feel a canter coming on.
Among your unyielding stance, your innocent
eyes reflected my inner turmoil.
I glimpsed my struggles, my insecurities.
Yet, there also resides a strength, a resilience
never before acknowledged.
Though engulfed by your commanding presence,
I chose to finally rise.
To stand tall and mighty like yourself
It is in this moment of empowerment, you flinch.
Whether in agreement or permission, I can't be sure.
But as a spare another glance upon your eyes,
I swear they are smiling back at me.
So, I take you on a celebratory ride, for you bestowed
upon me the gift of freedom.
Together, we venture toward the future.
defying the wranglers all around
A braided rope whistles through the air
shouts and screams are heard all around
As a perfect stillness breaks the air
A loud scream commands all to look
The black stallion standing proud
within their steely stare
rounded up from windswept glades
his wild mane lying gracefully upon
his arched and muscled back
dust settles upon the ground
within the corralled space
Horses mill and snort in defiance
that fills the air
His eyes ringed with white
looks beyond its normal pace
his silken skin shines darkly
within the dappled light
he trembles and snorts his strength
at the Ones gentle touch
His ears perked straight
upon the words that are whispered in his ear
a breath breathes softly upon his muzzled snout
Hands gentle him within his fright
Read more >
She was standing on the terrace lost in the view of the river beyond the buildings, and the buildings on the hill beyond the river, as though she had already left him, vanishing into the panorama, into the point of vanishing, like a horse galloping into the woods.
‘I love your neck,’ he said. ‘It’s turning me on.’
‘Seriously?’ she said.
He let go of her waist, losing her again, and stood behind her for a moment. Her nape was long and muscular, despite her fifty-six years, while his had shrunk, like the rest of him, from a lifetime of leaning over the feet of his patients – someone needs to make a better chair for podiatrists – trying to save their bones from gouts, cysts, micro-fractures, tumours, all the while neglecting his ailing marriage.
His wife was obviously proud of her neck and had cut her hair short, puckish like a young Twiggy, even though she knew he liked her hair long. Scything her hair off was the first act of divorcing him, and he had ignored the sign, thought she was, like him, grappling with middle age and was making a defiant gesture against it, as though changing her hairstyle would slow down the hurtle into old age.
‘Seriously,’ he said. ‘Your neck’s giving me a hard-on. Want to have sex?’
She turned round and glared at him, her big round eyes glinting in the light. He inhaled the air around her and let the smell of her skin and perfume filled his nostrils. All of a sudden he was in love with her again, a feeling he hadn’t felt in a long time, just as they were about to end their thirty-six years together. She hesitated, as if she was having difficulty deciding if she wanted to sleep with him or not.
Read more >
their lengthening shadows
wait for me under moonlight.
I feel the stars in my eyes—
the spirit of Pegasus; his hooves,
the same pounding in my heart.
I see stardust lift in the wake
of his gallop among the galaxies.
I hear your prayerful whispers,
your longing questions, but know
that I will rise in the dawn, corral
the dark fields beyond the grave,
and wait for you.
your beautiful sight
I see that weary
look that caused
I can reach the light
Though doubts, I keep
within my sight
comforting, is what
I have seen
of my of my own
from heart to heart
I console, one day
you will be gone
my lonely soul.
There is fear in the dark horse’s eye, the one that I can see. It reflects the fear twisting up my insides as I stare back at him.
I have never been a horse girl. In my teen years I preferred predators, their claws matching the one I sharpened on the world around me. Scratch, scratch, scratch until it hung in shreds and I showed my teeth to what was left.
The horse’s nostrils flare as if he can smell the big cats I learned from. As if he can scent the hunted predator I have become.
“Shhhh, shhh,” I croon, hands out, trying to hide my doubts. He dwarfs me easily, my head barely coming up to his shoulder, and I expect to control this beast?
Be gentle, I tell myself, trying to remember how. I reach towards him gingerly.
His flesh is hard under a rough-soft coat, muscles bunched up, ready to lash out. I can relate to that. I’ve been keeping myself under control for days, waiting for the perfect opportunity, the perfect time. Still, my heart pounds, still my ears strain, waiting for the sounds of pursuit.
His head darts for my hand, teeth snapping. Oh Christ, couldn’t pick a docile one could you?
I catch his nose, hard. “No.” I growl, panting into his face. He tries to shake me off but I hang on with desperate strength, if I do not get farther from the farm…
“Please,” I beg. “Please.”
That seems to catch his attention and though he eyes me warily, he calms.Read more >
Oh, please don't take my picture, don't. I know it sounds vain in a photo finish but my hair! Really! Such a mess! I'm sure I won the race but only by a hair's breadth and that's the mane point. It flew out, my mane, in front of me as I reached the winning line, a freak gust of wind blew it from behind then threw it back in disarray. That is why, in the photo finish the, well, finish on my carefully groomed mane has that wild look, as does my eye. I didn't have a chance to compose my features properly. Wild-eyed. Come to mention it, I'm rather cross with my groom who decided not to plait. A wild, abandoned look she said should get the spectators' cameras clicking. Oh, but not this camera...
“Why are we here Sebastian? You know I hate horses.”
“Just humour me, Felicity, I promised Mac I’d check them out before the auction.”
“Fine but I’m staying here,” I pouted, resting my folded arms on the fence.
“I won’t be long.”
I huffed as I watched him walk away.
You better not be, five minutes and I’m gone.
I watched in terror as a black stallion made its way over to me. My body froze and I found myself staring into deep black eyes. I gazed, entranced, at my reflection peering back at me. A fitted red dress and hair styled to perfection, but there was more, he saw me. The sadness in my eyes, the despair, and loneliness that I kept hidden. It was as if he could see into my very being. He saw the longing I had to leave it all behind.
He nudged his head towards me and without thinking, I placed my hand on his soft mane, stroking my fingers through it. That’s when I felt it, the emotion. He too was in pain and he too wanted to leave it all behind. We were connected in that moment, two souls longing for a release. Tears spilled over onto my cheeks as I gazed deep into his eyes. So much sorrow and pain, I felt it and I knew he felt mine too. I wanted to end his suffering and I wanted to release him from the pain and torture he endured.
As our eyes connected I knew what I had to do. I bought him that day. Taking him home was the greatest gift I had ever given myself. Two souls connected and two hearts mended.Read more >
I wonder what story I'll be saddled with this time?
Should I brim with unbridled anticipation?
Or should I just hoof it
And hope for the best?
See how I chomp at the bit?
I am blinkered and dazed
While they trot all around me
They're leaving now
I feel quite stable
I shall ride another day.
the greatness of a thing may be in no way related
to its size. Kindness is no argument. And, yet.
We practice forgetting, mourning
what we’ve already lost. Hoping the centuries
of evidence are extreme in their exaggeration;
that this time will be different; that somehow
you’ll see your way to get through.
That’s what my mother once told me.
Hers were honey–brown,
warm and forgiving, nurturing and kind.
They were the eyes I would gaze into to stop tears falling from my own.
She was a horse rider, my mother,
and wanted me to learn too.
I look into the horse’s eyes,
searching for the honey-brown
that lives within my mother.
But these eyes, they are empty.
They followed me as I try to pet their owner,
resenting the hand that touches the horse’s neck.
I want to run away,
to go home and embrace myself in the eyes of my mum.
Instead I am lifted up,
And forced to sit on the back of the owner of the empty eyes.
even with blinders on
from the corner of my eye
the surface of my skin
and hollow of my soul
the whip and spur
the bridal and the bit
as if I am just a beast
of their burdens
hauling their loads
and racing forever around
their endless tracks.
that I can never feel
indignity or pain
as just another animal
to be used
in the lives that
that they would live.
And yet I see I feel
even with blinders on
of why I was ever bred
to run the steeplechase
a darkened pool, flickerings of reprisal,
the sound of a distant shot moving nearer,
a crook stumbling in the corner of a field,
the rider dethroned, your buck conceit,
insulated from fate, dampening all reflection,
you eye the final hurdle, rushing the finishing line.
Well you can go get yourself some other brute from the stud down the road. I wouldn't chase a dog if you paid me. I'm going to relieve myself on the floor again, hopefully on that imbecile's shoes. He's stopping again, he feels my hair needs to be more rustic, windblown, nonchalant and the primper skips over and gently brushes the wisps over my eye, further into the shot. I show her my lustrous teeth and she giggles and blushes. I'd love a carrot or an apple right now, preferably the Egremont Russet. The photographer shakes his head, "What an animal" he declares. I spit in his face.
I feel like Aesop's dog staring down into its own covetous reflection. What I wouldn't give to bust those unsmiling, quivering chops into a great featureless ripple. Jellied knees and stubborn heels say otherwise.
Cue baffling fraternal pep talk.
"You wouldn't make much of a horse you know."
The eyes roll in both subject and reflection.
"Baby horse doesn't find it's feet in its first hour and it's done, mate. Toast."
'Foal', surely? Cretin...
"You don't get to run the 'National if you don't find your feet."
Obscurity rating: ten. Motivational value: nil. I hear the words "Red Rum" and tune into a different frequency.
I'm above the surface terrified of the image of myself below it. Not too old for the fear to be abnormal but old enough to have meticulously constructed a great galling wall of weed snares, gut cramps and aquatic bacilli. Oh, for one of those Blitz-era great-uncles to just cut through the head chatter and chuck this shrinking bone sack in with a brick in its trunks.
The look of surprise.
What’s out there?
their own direction?
Can the beast
break his own chains,
having known only the reins
to guide him?
Sired by mustang
so many moons ago.
The hopeful glint.
No. Get away from me, you idiot. No. I said no. I’m being pretty clear here, but fine, I’ll be blatant. If the rolling eyes and the twitching ears and the annoyed snorting aren’t doing it for you, a kick should make you understand.
You look so startled. And you’ve fallen back into the pile of hay, clutching your ankle, honest-to-goodness tears in your eyes. That hay is good—don’t crush it.
You pull yourself up with one hand on the metal railing which lines my large wooden cage. You can’t stand on the ankle I kicked, so you’re leaning your weight on your other leg. I don’t feel guilty.
I don’t, because I’ve escaped the metal bar. I know what the metal bar means. I’ve seen the others led out of their own cages, wearing rope-things, their teeth clenched around metal bars. The metal bar means heavy leather blankets, an assortment of clanking decorations, and some of you on my back, thinking you know where I should go better than I do. It means imprisonment and humiliation, and I’m never letting you hurt me, no matter how much you cry.
I see shadows staring back
reflected in an ebony pond,
a black iris
smooth and shining.
Do we see differently?
Is your world in sepia,
Have you lost hope in humanity?
I stroll through the golden field,
swishes against skin.
echoing my gait.
Under a shaft of sunlight
we stop – still.
Taste the mist of
merging in the stillness
muzzles almost nuzzling.
pecking at the edges of a blind hill
blunted by snow.
The moon and stars are thrown
from my horse at a canter.
It seems there is no sky.
There is a chandelier inside my eye,
did Picasso have a detached retina ?
The horse takes centre stage in Guernica.
I reflect upon
the law of retaliation.
There is injury.
There are feuds.
Tit for tat?
An eye for an eye
leaves the whole world
Let us seek to understand
to see beyond wrongdoing.
Let us free our fears.
The mirror is fluid.
The equine eye
is your own.
A bright day, without clouds,
autumn sun still holding its heat.
He trusts us; we’ve never
given him reason not to trust us.
The sky blue drug goes in,
we see him feel it hit
and then we watch helpless
the violence of his falling and terrible
tumbling over himself, his desperate
lurching refusal to stay down though
unable to stay up; it goes on forever,
until he’s prone at last and Claire
puts her hand over his eye and
he gives in to the shuddering darkness.
A bullet loudly, thankfully, finishes it.
It has dragged the heart from me;
I want to cry wait horse, wait,
we’ll do it better, it was a kindness
that we meant.
All the regret for every hurt I’ve ever caused,
sadness for everything I’ve ever lost,
is pouring through this rent, that wound,
his drawn back lips, his emptied eyes.
What am I like?
I chew grass; I love sugar lumps.
What am I like?
I crave the great outdoors.
My home is safe and secure.
I'm very well cared for.
What am I like?
My owners call me "A beauty".
What am I like?
I wouldn't choose to be a racer.
I'd hate the life; fear the whip.
What am I like?
I live for the open country.
No hard labour.
What am I like?
there's no blood to show, flush forth the first
warning is an energy source — once an idea sits
too long it rots — fermented fragments — sonority
randomization doesn’t permit backward movement
let’s wander inside the horse’s eyeball — trace
the snowman’s scoliosis and impulsive satsumas
hardy loosed skin actions full of persimmons
not a lick of precision — scarab on my chest
whimsical phalanges are hard to handle linen
for the abdomen rush pebble cleft scallop open
the silhouette is close to the waist and flared
to fingertip lengthwise permissions to feast
rebirth a ball of dung across the sky chamber
california dreamers in acrylic string looped
in pivotal positions, sourcing synchronicity
some of these days unhinged large hoop
earrings search for venus — is she back or
black the company and the inconsolable
shares solace on coach crater i’m all chasm
and breath once i loved her like a truck
driver loved the night if a paradigm shifts
let's wander into the horse's eyeball — terra
cotta is porous clay that hardens in sun
one two snap back blunts rolled money
Read more >
scent of leaves heated by Summer's end.
An arial projection of search
lights synchronised swimming
from the big top into
the night sky,
dancing with Andromeda
as the Battenberg Cake clowns
Inside; galloping to a heartbeat
with sequins and a glittered human
doll atop you leap over flaming
hurdles neatly as if it were
an act of embroidery.
Children with rosy cheeks,
butch dads with tattooed necks,
simpering sun-seekers back from
the Balearics all applaud you.
Cascades of clapping like that
waterfall in Corke beyond
the forest and the fallen quarry,
Plastic smiles ricocheting
around like a staccato gun salute
in a Spanish square.
You are the shining star- a
glossed present tense of muscle
Is it only me who catches your eye
and sees in it the sickness of terror, the confusion- the looking for that waterfall?
trained not to know
Yet her eye wonders.
into the hot
and sandy stable yard
into the piercing light.
Towering over the girl
who commands her with one
rope, fair and small the girl
against the black bulk.
she whacks her horse
this is hard love.
black horse tells us
black horse tells us
with her eye
she begins to know her power.
For it to be open to interpretation
means little or nothing to the horse.
It's mane is parted,
like a floppy-haired 50s film star
fresh out of a tizzy.
This contrast between historic film star
and horse adds to the sense of fear
bearing down on us.
But this is merely coincidence.
The white of the eye.
The first time I saw you, you were pacing around my bed. The moonbeams marking the room made evident the silkiness of your black mane. Your kingly air. I was scared – how did a horse get there? How did it climb the stairs? I feigned sleep and from behind my eyelids watched you watch me. You cut a striking silhouette against the floor to ceiling windows, circling my bed with impatience elegantly contained. You smelt of the sea, disconcertingly, and of bales of hay, understandably. I almost didn’t dare breathe. But then you kneeled and rested your head on my thighs and I felt your love infinite. It was a god’s love, a love that tingled the whole and the beyond of my bodily self. I loved you back. Immediately. I couldn’t help myself. Tears of love fell down the sides of my face. And you spoke: I’ve been here from the beginning, my name is Arion, fear not. That’s all you said. I brought my hand to your beloved head and caressed it, feeling its soft intelligent warmth and discovering as I breathed easy now that what blew from the velvet of your tremulous nostrils was sea air, hence the smell, and like this we slept.
a scimitar moon
a concentration of darkness
he turns his eye to me
his breath a cloud
of stars between us
his skin black satin
a moonlit sheen
of planes and surfaces
like watered silk
over smooth muscles
eager for speed
and I find myself
there for the wild
night long ride
nightmare to dream vision
our lungs and hearts
breathe and beat
a living drum
eating night down
to the last sweet bite
waiting for us
at the ragged edge
EYE see your startled pupils,
Your spasmed follicles.
EYE hear your breathing sharpen, falter.
your cataclysmal waterfall
as it cascades
EYE smell your RANK SWEAT.
EYE feel your
And EYE raise YOUR fear.
Blink now and
EYE will BOLT.
crystal ball of primordial secrets;
what it means to be wild
what it means
to be free –
what it means to feel
and know things
that slip through the sieves of logic
like water little hands
fail to grasp.
I see the graphs of canyons
In your cornea, your iris
where once you ran
where once we all ran
against time and concrete,
evolutions and revolutions,
the modern constructs
we saddle ourselves with –
chainmail for protection
from who we are
and what we know
if only we allowed ourselves
He had a star on his forehead
but he wasn't black
before him, I wasn't young
A horse. A star. A child
A saddle on the back. Long boots. Short nights.
I had been infatuated with horses
sugar in palms, a soft neighing
a soft muzzle on the back of my hand
on your back, I sit
tighten the space to the saddle
clench with my hand your back, hurt your hair
you take my leg, kiss it, it bruises
An eye. A tale. A fear of how much we can hurt
those who stand, listen to orders, march
how many times did you have to carry on your back
strangers who carry rage instead of broken limbs?
Don't answer, I read the books
a colt with a star on its forehead
black as the night
beautiful because black is a mixture of all colors.
Because many things happened
While the world was asleep -
I cannot say that both
The summer and winter
Why look at me thus?
How can the fields we tread consume
Us in such a way? Yet, ain't we going?
I mean, ain't we dying?
Perhaps to replenish the earth - for
In dying, creation begins.
And Hippodamia did marry Pelops, although eighteen suitors had to die for the story to unfold as it did. It was the name of the forsaken lover that never was, the charioteer, that gave the sea its name. His mother was an Amazon, they say, I choose to believe she was a Maenad.
And this eagle-eyed horse saw Pelops murder Myrtilus. And this horse was one of those that dragged Hippolytus on the barren rocks. Battered, the son of Theseus met his death for scorning Aphrodite, while the proud animal stood there, poised.
Devine mythological heroes of half-forgotten ancestry that occupy our mental geography, bearing names whose standing is now somewhat faint, but that have stubbornly refused to disappear, because somehow, somewhere, someone always stood there, watching.
This is the old material that has been made available to me, the stuff on which I am to graft my own experience and mould it with sensual and aesthetic fairness, to fertilise it with the sperm of my lovers.
Because a story is a gift to a lover left behind. Because a story is the least of all seeds, bearing enduring gratitude.
***Read more >
The heavy, uncomfortable stirrup,
With the knife-like spur had dug into my side since Dawn’s first shafts cut across the sky.
From behind a wall of round shields;
Spears like arrows had flown past me and grazed my flank.
Backwards and forwards without a pause,
I have ridden, galloped and charged.
The noise of hooves accompanying me, as my rider collected freshly tipped and glittering spears of death to hurl towards the bunched up human barricade.
The Anglo Saxons and our Norman herd all trained warriors and noblemen,
Combat claims my rider and he has fallen to be trampled by other horses floundering in a fosse,
The weight of his chain mail and my burden of fear gone,
A chance for me to flee the deadly dance of death,
Escape the cries and piercing screams of men and my brethren on the blood stained battlefield of Hastings.
Happy to jump higher, run faster, respond with a lightening quickness to your thighs. Quickest and happiest of them all, as if you were a part of me, or I of you. Six years I swallow you. Your swollen eyes in the morning, every morning; the frost of your sour breath in the winter; your forehead against the bright bay velvet of me. The fields and fields and fields of you walking and talking and soothing, yourself more than me. Hey Happy, I'm happy if you are.
The bright bay velvet of me, the barefoot of me, all rugs and bridle of me, all vaccinations of me: it could be yours, you say. To clear the hurdle, to apply, to walk the first step on the tortuous tow-path to happiness, click the button. Maximum weight for me, old and sick: eleven stone. Weekend riders, intermediate mothers, agrophobic children.
You come less and less often, that is to say, you are here but not here. Three stalls away, hello Baby, hello Lucky. I'm here to take you out. Lucky won't be lucky for ever. Everyone gets old. Some get sick.
Oh aye we've looked
horses in the eye.
Those poor blinkered souls
sweat and tremble beneath men
like our country's women.
Mute creatures, bridled and led
into the fray of protest,
jostle shoulder to shoulder
against us as we sing outside
the prison today. Our voices will
be heard. We will get the vote, spit
the bit from our mouths
but who speaks for them?
Walk me, groom me, ride me, see me, and hear me whisper to you:
If they say you have "only PTSD" they're not listening.
Even I can see you're damaged at the brain level.
wounded, not invisible, not treated.
Blasted, probably. Not a "blast." An injury, to you and them.
That 's why you come to me. For what they don't/can't provide.
I feel your pain, I can sense your fear, the disruption in your force.
We can walk and whisper and be together as pals, but it's a palliative.
I will be your equine therapist...... but your need a doctor who will fix your wound, not hope you get better.
The war within continues, you're battling the enemy, perhaps real visions of death, but surely the festering brain-blast needs to be healed. Look into my eyes, feel me breathe, put your ear against my flank and listen to life: oxygen can heal you.
You are starved for understanding and love and hope.
They tell you that there's nothing more they can do: take your drugs, MAN UP, welcome to your new normal.
Look at me: they're lying if they haven't told you everything you need to know.
Their silence is a crime, ours is a gift. The pain screams out to you. I feel it with you. What I know, you can know.
I tell you, listen: there is hope. There is healing.
I'M TALKING TO YOU.
There is hope.
of scarlet poppy and yellow mustard,
above, silent wings keep pace
with your galloping stride,
as we ride the night sky before we ride tomorrow’s storm.
Carried by a bittersweet wind, your breathless soul
sees what I can only imagine,
blood-red battlefields of the Gods.
There is no respite or mercy now,
on drifting sands we fight death,
muscled haunches gathering speed,
the world flees before your approach
and shatters into a million shards.
Sword in hand, shield raised
exhilaration and fear mingle in our hearts,
as ranks of war elephants
begin the rain of death,
arrows arcing the windless sky, piercing the sun.
On your right flank, the head of an ox branded
for all to know your strength,
white star blaze, a beacon of courage,
flare of nostrils, defiant of eye.
Black coat foaming with rage, your impatient hooves
grind into mud and bone,
our enemies fold to the ground, wills broken
their cries to the Gods unanswered.
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With boots of fur,
A ministry lost to jubilant rosettes.
I have the wisdom of sages,
But they harness my syllables with
I've pulled far and wide,
I've fathered carts,
But I never plowed a field or a heart.
They don't know my real worth;
I am a Man Whisperer.
The warm clutch of her thighs had faded,
I sensed a slow sour on her skin.
I was gentle with my tongue when I muzzled into
the remembered cup of her hand.
I had watched the melt on her bones.
I knew as she made the long climb to the bed
of my back
but I was created to carry
and I will carry as far as she needs me to go.
The enormous man swung his chubby arm outwards in an expansive gesture, unfolding his palm towards the horse that stood completely still in the middle of the room. Its eyes were dull and unresponsive, but I could see distorted shapes reflected in the inky black pupils. I shuddered. In all honesty, I couldn’t agree with the taxidermist. Stuffed animals had always disturbed me, and always would. Something that, for me, meant more than it did for most.
“She’s the prize of my collection,” he sighed wistfully. “Such craftsmanship. You’d almost think she was still alive…” My gaze moved from the horse’s eye to her greying, cracked lips. I didn’t blame the taxidermist for lying to himself. Such deception was necessary to maintain our sanity.
Turning away from the horse, I looked around the room. There were deer, foxes and badgers trapped in glass cases. There were butterflies and dragonflies pinned up against boards, wings as fragile as tissue paper. Robins, blackbirds, and barn owls were propped on top of tree branches. In a familiar sensation, I felt the walls of the room closing in around me, the endless pairs of lifeless eyes accusing me of crimes unknown. I shut my eyes, breathed in, and out. Normality began to reassert itself, when I heard a “ping” sound behind me. Quickly, I turned to see a button from the taxidermist’s bulging grey waistcoat fly through the horse’s eye, right out of the window. “Oh dear,” he murmured, floating out of the room to go and find the button.
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Striding into the valley
with flames aloft,
arrogance under top hats -
men of the laird.
'Sweep them out.
They're of no worth.
Bring in the sheep
and coming riches.
What have we here?
A granny on her own.
Turf her out on her chair,
smash everything you find.
They must go,
anywhere but here.'
Mòrag of the machair,
toes full of vigour,
blonde locks in the wind.
Mother and father lost at sea,
grandmother and brother waiting.
Waves hurl a warning.
She spins to the croft.
Black smoke belches into the sky.
Her legs carry her to the sight.
Her heart throbs in her throat.
Upon the sodden meadow, the bay mare buckled and dropped. Cynthia was flung. Her femur cracked as the weight of her steed plunged down with gravity. In her tumble, she noticed the cause of her pony’s fright.
Since his difficult foaling, Gaudí had struggled with new sights, sudden noises, flashes of colour or any new mystery to his nerves. He’d developed a reputation for bolting at anything. Cynthia groaned as she saw what he’d seen. Below a gnarled bough, a flimsy shape, flapped and billowed. A bag was caught on the branches: Tescos Recyclable Plastic. Cynthia passed out in pain. Gaudí, her horse, was dead.
In the hospital, almost a century earlier, and hours from the crypt within the chapel of Carmen, the spirit (who in two generations hence, would belong to Cynthia), sifted through some of its past memories. Each sticky end, each grisly demise, summarised by being ridiculously spooked. He’d been forever cursed by this weak character flaw. After many lifetimes he was still unable to conquer his fears. As Gaudi, one of the surrealist group of artists in Barcelona, his latest death hit him as hard as the tram he’d failed to notice. He deserved to return as a donkey!
sunset waves toward the Antilles, then losting in the great ocean
and, from there, traveling who knows where, who knows when ...
Like this I would stay until the last old age, here, in the tavern
of the harbour from the end of the world, at the dirty wooden
table, sleeping and dreaming near the glass of Tequini, under
the shade of the reed and of the trees with large, unearthly leaves...
Antón Lizardo, how many aliens have cuted and how many
have shot the rebel sons of these lands for this smell of warm
shells and putrid algae of your homeland?!
Here, in this shore head from Alvarado, south of Veracruz,
at a shout from Boca del Rio, here is the place where you can
lose your human loneliness and you can blend with the loneliness
of the space, of the water and of the earth, of the sand and of the sky.
Life begins here the second and last time; the clamor of the city
is far away, hardly now begins, but is far away, doesn’t reach up
to the beach ...
At the midle of life, here, on this shore head, south of Veracruz,
at a shout from Boca del Rio, far from Europe that grew me up,
at the midle of life I will still smoke a few cigarettes and then I will
bargain with the elders fishermen for a more lasting vessel with
which to torn forever from the ground. The half of the life that
has still remained will belong to the water, to the boundless sea
and to the travels full of adventures.
bursting on to a Paris stage
Grace and power class and fire
Free expression His desire
A spirit wild - divided heart
hammer-sickle loved His art
Arogance; sexual prowess -fame
a brilliance only dance could tame
Power and beauty of a Seraphim
they named the race horse after him
And waltzed the Arc in valorous triumph
With fiery eye and true defiance:
I go down to the edge of the field
to be met by a gaze;
to be met.
It sounds like a bell, clear and sharp,
across my distances.
to cut through my better knowing.
Now I’m taken into the twilight.
now the dark earth
spreads stillness between us
as if I could reach
how I looked
under your gaze.
How I returned it
like an animal?
But I am, not as well as
– but only.
I’m unlearning the human
going back to when I wasunready,
laid bare.Read more >
in your eye I see reflected
the land before the enclosures
how it spread out as far as the eye could see
before we were driven from our island life
before we crossed the wet roads
how you carried us through shallow fords
over bridges and down long narrow roads
widening out until they reached the city
and we brought you to a place
where we could no longer run free
we were tired, become tied to other’s rules
we were misplaced, we had forgotten our home
but now when I look deep into your eye
I see a moon rising over a wind-rinsed beach
and I take your coarse hair in both hands
and you let me climb up on your broad shoulders
we are pacing old routes, side stepping the tide
we are racing faster than our hearts can pound
together, in time, through time
we become centaur, my eyes are your eyes
my breath shoots through your nostrils
I feel the sand shift beneath our feet
I feel the surf spittle slap against our flanks
and now I remember
and there is only this sky, this sea
this beast, this moment
and we run
and we run
On bustling routes of old Dehli
In dallying reverie of an autumnal dusk
I met a figure discerned from folks;
Who meanders in search of his bourgeoisie masters
A gaunt face of aged life
A gleam of wisdom in ancient eyes
He chatters with swiftness of a gay child
& often wears a grin wide
He lapses in musings
His musings on life
While fancying in harlotry of bygone times
For his, were few dreams and a life to hone
Afar, floating in recesses of ocean
They rise with tides' nocturnal swings
And, brim on brink of undercurrents
The flimsy frivolities of tenderness
To live on side of an ocean's bay
Entangling his experienced fingers
In a tangled mesh of a fisher's net
And ferrying his past through oar of perseverance;
He wished to sing rhapsodies of Majhi ( a fisherman )
While sailing a boat against buffets of wind
The trail of imageries droops
As drops of elixir from reminiscent tongue
I cannot forgive you, Donkeys. I cannot and will not forgive you, and when I say ‘you’, I mean all horses, too. (Yes, I know.) I cannot forgive you, for that single time I - as a child who grew late - had been consigned in the horse-riding lesson to the scaled-down budget version:
you, Donkey, you. While the others trotted, galloped, cantered, even, me and my four feet and you and your own four bastard hooves (which did not do anything other than what they wanted to) watched. We watched, observed
the courtly stances, the elegant dances of Homo Sapiens and Equines. And it was just at this moment in time, when I looked away, you chose to quickly and forcefully stick your belligerent nose in the food.
And I don’t know if you know quite what an effective slide your neck is but let me tell you, Donkey: I slipped from the cross of your back into the trough, down the tracks of your mane, in no time flat.Read more >
the eternal battle between the I and the Eye
the fate busy wrapping shrouds around bodies
the destiny beckoning to endless unbeing
birds lost songs
crickets all muted
muffling voices in darkness
whispering away the secrets unknowable
loud enough to hear but indecipherable
like worm-eaten scribbles of an unidentified ancient tongue
the colours changing lighter on the way to fade
Eyes turning into solid dry fixed stones
the troops of tears stranded in the reckless stride
Insanity is bored and sanity indifferent
the words madly rocketing in the air like aimless badgers
or like accidentally discharged bullets
with no intention of killing
dreams scattered like the chicken feathers in the butcher's shop
The bloody knife and sweated brow and writhing carcass
The I always loses
And the Eye never wins...
They are always
hardest to harness
when the time comes
to fetch Persephone.
Abaster is the worst;
the other three
once they realise
it is night Above,
but Abaster hates Above,
hates the night,
and, most of all,
hates the stars,
knowing he will never
Wild-eyed and rimed
with sweat, he backs
until there is nowhere
left to run.
Recessed in a black head
framed by a wild fringe
and an erect ear
a black lens embedded in
like a surveillance-camera
alien movements of a bipedal species
that boasts it as the master of the universe
best understood by a sensitive horse
in the year 1886
now, an iconic figure
known world-wide as beloved Kholstomer.