- Vol. 09
- Chapter 02
I would not age well. Turquoise forming –
not lyrical veins down my body, meaningfully
etched, but bulbous corrosion at every joint.
No healing properties for me. Each morning I wake
a statue. Walk through the day a statue. Turquoise tears
etched on coppery face, collecting at edges
of chin, elbows, eyes. I corrode corrode
corrode. Therapists want to saw me off
at the head. Therapists say: drink this formula,
this graph, this table, let me shine
lights in your eyes to heal your complex
trauma. My metal refuses to polish. I leave
the therapists. Drag my crying sawn-off head
through streets. Therapists say, I will close
my file on you. What they really say:
you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t
make her drink. No, you can’t make me drink
from poisoned pastel lagoons. Let me run,
Slip clop, buck, chuck, wind in my face, animal earth.
Cold cage blue, a dark corner, inaudible whispering
Your breath is hot, as hot as my fear.
You will take me to the edge of this decay,
You will take me over the edge to the bare bones.
Knotting with you the past and the present.
A black lick.
A crash in the night
A careful colliding, distorted lines, folding in on one another.
And then there is You.
A purr, slower, smoother than melting muscle.
Drip down. Lower your head to mine. A golden hair, an organised sun-lit knowing.
Your sparkling eyes cuddle mine.
I could sleep here, I think.
In this place I am the wind.
What is off the screen
be_hind the camera
and hidden is often
susurrus with colours.
A single body /quadruped
two actors in one costume
co_operate and synchronize
The front end / The back torso.
Researchers grow stem cells in a lab
some_where in a petri dish
and around a formaldehyde
mandala. Head first. That is.
Stem cells manipulate themselves.
Heart muscle blood and nerve
The clerk asks a secretary to send in the pantomime horses.
Two horses or four cells in two horse costumes and one apocalypse dance in.
The lead horse explains they have to let one of them go.
The banker concludes they must fight to the death for it.
Shortly after we had woken you persuaded me to head to the woods, the early dawn light a cheap draw. That morning the air was wet, the open bedroom window had let slip that the rain had been steady all night. The damp gravel underfoot deadened the sound of our steps out of the house. Let’s go through the cemetery, you had suggested, choosing the shorter path; it took us through a kissing gate. I went first, you followed; you stopped though, I heard you, to catch whether I might linger in the hinged enclosure, to make something of the moment. I sashayed through determinedly, keeping my back to you. A wall.
The nettles, abundant irritations, were unforgiving. We took the muddied trail, a meagre clearing, that offered some respite. The woods came into view quickly, on the turn of a corner, in some ways too soon, so I decided we should take the longer route. Besides the path ahead was reassuringly even, reason enough for me to scupper your plans. Let’s turn off here, I suggested — precisely as I did so. Now we passed the stables, crossed a courtyard of worn paviors and cobbles. Workman’s tools, hoe, shovel, rake, were tidily stacked in a wheelbarrow parked against a low tower of bricks. A slim fault in the earth and we had made it to the field, our detour to the copse.
It wasn’t September yet but there was the trick of colour. The bronze fringe along each serrated edge of the hornbeam’s fall distracted me as I scuffed through the grass; long, arching blades. We avoided cobwebs, horizontal lattice pads, shyly translucent under the brief sun. There was a wooden fence marking a paddock. I looked across, spotting an Oldenburg.Read more >
When I broke the trunk, I knew what you would be,
for I could not tame you.
Then, you were a wild beauty
as you galloped amongst the saplings.
Now your stillness, nurtured
through the coloured grain,
more alive than the living forest.
Magnificent elegance carved,
bashfully mine, poised
I saw two sad wooden eyes
and heard the Great Khan’s rumbling troops
a clatter of cavalry at Omdurman
Sebastopol’s dying Light Brigade
loud slaughtering from Waterloo
and the clash of battle at Antietam
“What Price Glory?”
brave charging Captains
swords thrust forward
“Too high, too high!”
their riders’ mothers sighed
In the café
I spied the Four Horsemen
discreetly taking tea
A descendant of Pegasus
Though I am unwinged
I’ve been with you through history
Where battles were lost, and battles won
I was Bucephalus as Alexander rode
Conquering ever eastward
To Afghanistan and Lapis Lazuli
And when I was Incitatus
Caligula made me Senator of Rome
Yet Hannibal rode me, over Alps
With elephants to Roman gates
I rode under Crusader
Under Saracen too
I watched at Agincourt
As the longbow did its work
And without me to ride
King Richard lost his crown
I was there at Little Big Horn
At Custer’s last stand
Through the Great War I pulled
Labouring in the mud
Sometimes, I was set free
To frolic on grass, in the sun
Now I am a painting
Swinging above a pub
Now, I am the Nag’s Head
legend in the family:
we mastered horses,
horseback warfare. we took
the tool of the colonizer
and turned it against him.
we fought for comancheria
on the backs of an animal, a'ho,
horses, tamed and trained
without white intervention.
my family never wanted me.
i haven't ridden a horse. pet
a few, got to brush a friend's
one summer after we jumped
for hours on her trampoline,
whoa, sweatsuits and wool socks
in july, eight pounds of flesh
or die alone. while she showered,
i sneaked a bowl of rainbow
sherbet, ate it so fast my head
ached, arrow through my throat,
this wrong body one back
breaker and betrayal
after another, plains
burnt to ashes, girl,
every summer another ring
around the neck.
At first, young Mercury, with wings upon my feet,
to save my soles from landing on the ground
In glowing meadows, following the butterflies and bees
I never felt the end of them, the start of me
Be swift, be light, run free
And then, upon my back a heavy weight
A jockey whipping, sharp teeth gritting,
goggles dense with mud and ire
Tight reins lashing, eye whites flashing
Ears dipped, heart ripped
Forcing to the wire
Looming fences, brooks and acres
Flat white sky around, ahead
And in my mind, the trainer's voice
You can't hate that for which you're bred
In bronze or stone a life is frozen
Newsprint, journal, someone's heart
When atoms settle in the earth
Be glad, be sure, you only ran
The race you should have, from the start
I've had a lifetime of mediating my parents' fights. Immature threats and silences bandied about like toys.
Accusations of neutrality, bias, and everything in between.
Of not understanding.
My mother whinnying, father opening the newspaper too wide.
Young mare, just wanting to stand still in a drizzling field or take a nap in the stables.
I looked in through the sliding glass doors on my humid teenage runs around the house. (I had suddenly and briefly rebelled against my desert circumstances and had taken to
heart-pumping sticky-aired jogs around the villa at night.)
There my family would be, slumped against the too-plump couch, eyes on a box of coloured light. My mom might be sucking the fibrous seed of a mango, all yellow. Dad glancing from behind the third newspaper of the day. Maybe my sister was there, maybe she was holed up in her bedroom at that point, attempting to do homework on her bed and inevitably falling asleep on it instead.
I didn't want to be unthinking in the evening like that, robotic and un-alive-looking to someone peeking through a sliding glass door. But that was who I was.
I knew when I returned inside and joined them again, it would no longer bother me.
I would be comfortable, comforted, slumped back in a too-plump couch and alright with it all.
I’ve lost my head
I bent down for the briefest of moments
I can’t remember exactly why
And thump. It fell clean off
But I seem to be here. Here
with my head. So, more precisely,
it’s my body that I’ve lost
All hooves and heavy haunches
Not very easily misplaced
Such a large and heavy object
And usually, customarily, ordinarily
Well-attached. I would’ve thought?
Being body-less - upon reflection -
Is not as strange as one imagines.
In my head is a familiar place.
I mightn’t even miss it
It was the rich girls who got be all horsey, taking the bus after school that dropped them off at the Weston Equestrian Centre, stocked with gleaming horses tossing glossy manes. Riders and horses equally well shod and groomed, whom I watched with envy at shows where the pupils flaunted their skills and won ribbons.
One summer I got to enter this magical world for two whole weeks. We drove several hours north, over the border to Captain Wiazowski’s riding school in north eastern Canada - a musty barn bought on credit filled with a dozen or so manky looking mares. Captain Wiazowski strode about in tattered military garb, snapping his crop and barking commands peppered with Polish expletives.
For one hour in the morning, and one hour in the afternoon, we’d duly trot and canter around the dusty ring. The rest of the day, and night for those of us who were residential campers, we took care of feeding and watering the horse, mucked out stalls, helped the kitchen crew peel and chop vegetables, and generally roamed around freely, entertaining ourselves as we wished.
Every single moment of those two weeks was golden. Because of the horses, of course, but mostly due to the total, utter freedom. Days stretched miraculously before us, filled by singing along to the Top 40 played on the tinny radio, exploring the woods at the edge of the property, swimming in the pond with the No Swimming sign, and watching the older kids play those weird games that involve chasing and wrestling in ways that maximised full-body contact. No one cared if I ate my stash of chocolate for lunch or stayed up all night telling ghost stories or jumped from the barn roof into the piled-up hay below.Read more >
He would not drink from the well
on which moonlight shone,
illuminating the rippling surface
where the bones of his fathers swam,
unbodied remnants of ancestry.
He would not drink from the well,
though thirst had brought him to this place,
carried on the back of the pale horse,
who dipped his muzzle deep into the offering.
He would not drink from the well,
had already tasted its bitter waters,
its poison spreading through family flesh.
They, too, floated below, their futures drowned.
The corpse horse looked on,
as he slipped into the arms of waiting ghosts,
quenching centuries of thirst
and the well drank of him
meet me at the stallion’s
head I told him
it’s always lit so beautifully
who like me
I play a little game
what if he was complete
alive to sidle up to me
what if I peeled off
these few summer
clothes ride bare back
Equus-like Godiva style
but the thing is Prince
or Shadow whatever your
I don’t trust your teeth
kick - I wait in pretty
light - no one’s
all this asking to become
all that—as ephemeral
as images stored in clouds—
does anything even exist
if no one looks? perhaps
it’s only a rearrangement
of particles, only ever was
figments, tiny pieces of energy
and light condensed
into thought, a vision
of a prophesy collaged—
every element recombined,
a geography that flies out
of the cartographer’s hand,
the boundaries erased
by imaginary lines—life!—
mysterious and beautiful
Winter offers us a blank bouquet
as the sun perches on a bright blue crown,
followed by the sudden haste —
we join the marching of days:
eat up your breakfast, don’t forget
the keys, put on your hat and gloves.
Our early breath torn between
our human warmth and where.
Yes, little one, stars are blinking
beyond the morning light.
Last night the fallen leaves
were free to roam
across an empty street,
under the watchful eye of a lamppost,
along with the soft steps
of a wandering cat
not yet ready to return
to the warmth of a home
where humans slept,
where in a dream there was a horse
wild in its youth and yonder
and not at all daunted by its thirst
for it knows of the river,
and that it runs.
rising in a sweep of lashes
day splintering through the weave
in burnished stripes of turquoise
our dreams made alkaline
turning us to rust
how we folded
made ourselves velvet
creatures wrapped in translucent dawn
held inside the breath of
our temporal home
its hazy exhalation
our eyes lowered
inward, skin skimming
searching for bronze interludes
while we grazed on one another's sleep
Horse’s head so light it hangs,
like honey from a hidden spoon,
quiet as a teardrop in vacuum;
horse’s head content in its
own purpose, like beauty,
there to feed on air;
horse’s head to be embraced
as an idea, felt against a bare chest,
blood to human blood;
horse’s head of dreams to chase
away the nightmares,
yard of brown face that’s been
waiting here forever to be held;
horses head that waits to be
completed by a wilderness of horses,
a creaturely infinity,
a need to hear your heartbeat,
nod yes against your belly and your breast.
Like an equestrian
who mounts a dark-sky
stallion that canters on sleek
fetlocks, bones and tendons
sharpened to polished hooves,
I know a purpose that outshines
the possibilities of physics.
I shake the bedsheets
that bloom and float
in hazy dawn
to rest on airy pockets.
Such lines, such beauty
in movement, I admire
of toe to carpet.
Calf and joint brace,
flex, extend, then fix
a point of equilibrium
on each stairstep.
So smooth, so thoughtless
this cascading displacement
of air and space
through which I move.
It seems I have always, or at least since I’ve been able to read, lived my life by the saying, “Learn from the mistakes of others. You don’t have time to make them all yourself.” It wasn’t one I ever heard growing up, but I read it in an old cookbook an aunt had when I was a young child. I refused to cook, but enamored by the adages, I enjoyed flipping through the spiral bound volume. Surrounded by people heavily and darkly cloaked with the stress of alcoholism or the innumerable burdens of unwanted children, there were plenty of very important lessons for me to learn, and I was always precocious.
Several of these lessons came from a story about my father from before I was born. Back when my father was an alcoholic, he had this alcoholic horse. Fair warning: this story ends badly for everyone – every creature – involved, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Long before I was born, my father had a son – a cherished namesake, a junior – by his first marriage, and the boy loved to stay with my parents. When he was fourteen, some fourteen years before my own birth, my beloved half-brother drowned while staying with them, thinking he could swim at the local pond with his friends, when, in reality, he didn’t know how. This sent my father into a vicious downward spiral of grief, anger, and alcoholism, the trauma of which the family never really recovered from, even after he’d sobered up.
It’s the beginning of the end for me. I’m a date unknown, anonymous, third century relic that lives in a glass case, a two-minute walk from the souvenir shop. By the time visitors get to me, their cameras hang around their necks like unbecoming jewellery. Rectangular objects point at my fellow exhibits and Lilliputians leave fingerprints on my windows.
If they know who I really am, I would be just as famous as that minuscule portrait Lisa, whom I met centuries ago in Fontainebleau.
Agatha and I galloped across the fields filled with wildflowers and prickly pears. Just before the sun set behind our friend Etna, Agatha let me graze in alpine pasture. Her pastel coloured robe brushed against the grassland as she peeled the green and yellow fruit, devouring the flesh and seeds.
You see, my Agatha was Saint Agatha. I’m the wooden horse she lay upon after she answered no to a man.
I turned away from Saint Agatha when she held her two milk-secreting glands. Stared at the cold stones and shut my eyelids. But she walked toward me and combed my mane with her lovely long fingers. "Don’t cry my friend," she whispered, between iron bars.
She scooped her robe from the cobbled surface and wrapped it around her fragmented torso. The magic robe didn’t soak the sanguinary surface. It was still a gentle rose and blue, like the crystal clear waters of the Ionian Sea. I struggled, but she found light and beauty in darkness. Ears pinned back, I wanted to lift myself on my hind legs and pounce on evil.
Saint Peter sheathed my crest and withers with her pastel robe when Saint Agatha rose to an unearthly realm. "She wanted you to wear her robe, my friend." My friend. She used to call me that. Saint Peter called me his friend, but I felt so alone.
Everyone knows of the Knight in the Copper Lake. Sir Frederick the Fragrant, known for his lack of natural body odours as well as the plethora of scents he would work through during an evening banquet, each as artificial as his mysterious smile and flirtatious ways. The story of how said Knight once found himself without his aromatic condiments during a hunt is common knowledge. That he then instantly decided to wash in the nearby waterfall as to avoid smelling, God forbid, of SWEAT, is an accepted truth. After all, his body is still there; a shimmering now-green statue toppled over on the lake floor, caught mid-wash when the curse got hold of him.
No one ever talks about his horse.
Lord Snortington had been a most noble creature when he was alive. Grand and muscular, with a coat as silvery as the face of the moon, he had carried his master through many a tournament and saved many a maiden from dragons. His gait was airy, his prancing glorious, his neigh supreme; there was no one as beautiful as he.
Where he had been silver, she was gold; as golden as a field of wheat just before harvest, with mane and tail the colour of rich cream. And he had loved her from the first moment he saw her.
They had been born on the same day, he was told, but born in different flocks, to different breeders. This, and the massive fence that separated their pastures, should have been enough to discourage the instant affection they felt when they saw each other. But love was never known to be wise. They found ways to play together, through the fence.Read more >
The stained glass of a winter afternoon fades
into night that floods the landscape and sunset
colours are absorbed into the cathedral of space.
Of all the nebulae that ever swirled and sashayed,
the horsehead in its prime, one thousand five hundred
light years away, has more than earnt its place.
We can still observe its past when stars exploded
silently, unbridled by Orion, a blushing apparition
with the luminescence of another dimension
like mica in the strewn sands of time, refractions
and reflections seen only through giant telescopes,
or heard in ancient cosmic music still waiting to be played.
it had never occurred to my overly lovely steed
—but now indeed has and is smartly in process—
that his consciousness would endure when separated
were his half-neck and full head from his body
yet his aim, goal, and exam-free objective
soon turned to the task at hand effectively
to achieve equine equity and or equality
with the equalization of the spheres:
the pinkish heavens of rear haunches and
the oh so light green of front legs and hooves,
all absent yet present with haute intelligence
measured, of horse, in serene serenity.
My lips kiss the ground,
tasting soil and metal,
grateful for today
and all of the earthly tomorrows
Bronzed and smooth,
shimmies down the slide,
knowing the sacredness of each moment,
each hour that comes and goes
inhabit the mind,
sitting on our shoulders,
praying at our feet.
I gallop to catch up,
the self a distant field
where I can see and taste dandelions,
refuse to tamp them down,
refuse to let them be pulled,
knowing that I am worthy,
a weed growing through the cracks,
thriving, despite myself.
The busy Missouri pushes slabs of bone,
degraded waste, fresh downed wood,
a burden of mud--and somehow the carcass
of a cow, a mule, a chunk of deer, river sturgeon,
and the body of a decapitated horse.
When the body of the boy floats by,
the fishing man lets out a yell, tries to reel it in--
no luck--the flood waters too dense, too thick,
and he calls 911 to report what he saw.
Could it be the missing body of the juvenile
who jumped from the police car--how?--
leapt over the railing of the upriver bridge,
and was not found? He didn't know.
Then he saw the head of the horse,
a great log grind itself into the sand
and a piece of driftwood swim onto the beach.
He dug the wood out, wiped down its skin
and saw the soul of something ordinary within it--
the shape of a life, the opening of eyes--
wrapped it carefully in muslin and tapestry
and there it is on display downtown
in the vast window of his sporting store for all to see.
erect cages of metal and mortar
turn right to lock. do not look left
remove all traces (& faces)
of home & hospitality
drain pores of moisture.
moisten lips of fear
for late night boots
of airs (& heirs)
of blunt pain & daily pairs dares
with menus devoid
of nutrients (neither poached nor baked pears)
In her filigree thoughts, Juanita knew she didn’t
need fancy fossils to indigenize the rumbling of
hooves down to the river, pre-Cortez. She had a
formidable sense that faunal traces of mares and
stallions echoed in the red, river clay that kept
her ancestral skulls—genus homos, but, erectus?
After all, she always had the olfactory sense of
a quadruped, identified wind swept manes long
before her eyes did, made tall grasses her bed.
Somewhere, a moon rises over that space, where
we are linked beyond morphology. There, you peer
through a slit in the sorbet fog, after a brisk gallop,
ensconced in Anahuak’s invisible, feral herds:
now sad phantoms, with downcast eyes, nearly
eclipsed by the advent of genocide, the beheading
of those soft chariots she runs alongside in dreams.
A deafening thud hits the ground.
Shrapnel scatters in a terrifying explosion.
‘Soldier’ whinnies and rears up in pain,
His chestnut mane covered in blood.
Beloved family stallion, ‘Soldier’.
Winner of endless competitions.
Our Stables had a sculpture made
When he finished his reign as champion.
Then came the war. It was 1918 and
Our Jonny responded to the call for cavalry.
With Jonny as his groom and rider,
We confidently bade farewell to them both.
The Normandy beach loomed through the mist.
Rough rocks and bodies everywhere.
Jonny and Soldier clung together.
Splashing through the damp and misery.
Deep mud hindered Soldier’s progress.
Bare tree stumps made fingers
Pointing helplessly upwards
Towards the dark, threatening sky.
After dusk, they battled on.
Without food or water, but with
Soldier’s muscular strength
And Jonny’s tenacity.
the holiness of the stream
pebbles sparkling beneath ripples
my thirst too grand to need to be led
the cold water rises to my parched brain
tries to bring me back among the living and the quenched
the day is windless
the stream sparkled foamless and glittering
a murmuration of starlings blackened the sky
before vanishing into the half-stripped woodlands
part here part there
touch my lips to the fast moving stream
the wind having departed with my body
my head at the water
trying to drink back my self
Most deities sit, arrogant, on clouds
detached from real lives. I save my worship
for my mare goddess, Rhiannon. She ambles
out of Welsh mists, nuzzles my hand, bends
my mind to Celtic prayers. Her fetlocks steam,
her breath is infused with aromas of meadows,
sweeter than new mown hay. Her stately pace
is faster than any man or any stallion's gallops.
Yes, I made a graven image, to cover her absences.
When I stroke her cast-bronze head, my fingers
remember her warm, life-pulsing hair, her coat.
Her lowered eyes seek heaven, on earth. Desire fruits
in rich-blooded women, with feet of clay, her true tribe.
My passion rolls like sea fret through my brain and limbs:
When I've invoked her seven times, she'll come again.
Cold to the touch, I place my hand upon your
frozen nose, your lost and lonely stare.
You do not stir.
I name you, like a racehorse given best odds,
pray you back to life, to cantering home.
You do not stir.
I wrap my arms around your missing mane,
stroke the long line of you, blue-bruised in bronze.
Will you not stir.
Your nostrils flicker wet in dream of furlongs,
fetlocks, freedom’s dawn up against the rails.
Cold to the touch and statue-still, I place my hand
upon your tree-trunk form, offer torn grass.
Be still my warrior.
in sculptured stone,
married to the universe,
grazes among goddesses
on a rainbow track,
out of Rhiannon's stable,
uncontained, a stallion,
running with wild horses,
free and unharnessed
There is truth in this steed,
as pure Kentucky bluegrass—
make it over the fence
you’re going to last.
“I don’t see it,” he said.
She told him to scroll up slowly. She stopped his hand when the image on the screen was a blunt wedge and two flaps at the sides. “Whale head and fins,” she said again. She took control, scrolled down slowly so the eyes appeared, the strong bulge of jaw tapering to nose and mouth.
“You’re going to animate this, make the horse head swim?"
“Sperm whale and stallion, unsexed. Yes, swimming.”
“Call it Sea Mare,” he said, “a bad dream.”
“It’s going to paddle with those fin ears to the bottom and attach with its muzzle like a suction cup.”
“How about making the whale horse translucent, add some flowers with long stems, that severed neck the top of a vase.”
“Long petals,” she said, “wavering in the current like the tentacles of a hydra.”
“Did you know the adult hydra’s called a medusa?”
“Hydra, snakes. I can see that,” she said. “First the cut flowers descend and enter the mouth of a vase. The vase submerges, flower petals become the hydra tentacles become snakes, then the vase becomes sperm whale, elongates, and the camera following down to the horse’s head, the whole thing—snakes hydra, while, horse head—paddling to the bottom and the stallion lips clamping onto a stone, the eye lids blinking, the point of view shifting to the one horse eye which looks straight at the viewer. And then...”
The waters part with minimal splash
embrace the new entrant to this
underworld of stones and sand
and shells and algae and seaweed
and waves and salt and tides
rolling in, dragging back
Severed from its body
eyes sad, resigned
not the whites-displayed wild
of panic, fear.
It’s the slenderness
she had noticed most
head angled downwards
a diver on the top board
poised to part the waters
ears a perfect vertical
with the forehead
there is a queerness
to the way your eyes are lifted –
like 'perception is doom
but how dare you not gawp
the glabella nose heavy like
that yawns bronze, pluming
to hold the brows broad downward
plump as a
how did it feel to be the low-hung crop?
though perhaps not the fruit
but the creviced bough that
when did it hit, anne?
Read more >
They took my courage and gave me back a head.
They tried pills, patches and potions; needles, bottles
and kind words. They resorted to wipe boards and knives.
They took my hands often but gave me back the severed head.
The haunt of my pain's hologram is now mine to own.
I tried wrapping it in my lover's blanket, burying it under
a tsunami of retail. I flew away in a wig and jolly mask but
it hung its head over the pages of my fat book. I feel the silent
night caller's slow drip of ice on closed lids, the burn of
the nostril's flare.
They tried, gave of their best, did all they could but were left with this mournful carving that belongs to me, they could not give it to another. I must bear the weight of impending mortality.
I owe them this.
I set my head down to nibble.
My mistress sits streamside
resting against a willow tree,
running her hand
in the water alongside.
Her legs trembled as she
rode me bareback to this,
her favorite thinking place.
We two are as one
when she rides.
Although I have opted for
a taste of the meadow,
Sweet clover, bluets,
I will work my way
slowly back toward
her and the water—
unless I hear her crying.
Then I will stride over
nudge and nuzzle her.
She will pet me,
bury her tear-stained face
in my mane. Our affection
for each other
comforts, heals, us both.
Even though she is behind
me now, I will not miss her
slightest sob—after all,
Read more >
I dreamt of climbing up backs and manes, perching atop,
to watch cars whirling around the roundabout at night,
before off they peeled onto the big road, down to the sea.
But I never did challenge the cavalhos' vastness, curving up
into the sky in a helix – the very being of Vigo, its bay,
the mountains they roamed in another life. Five horses,
their bellies heavy, hips wide, mid-bolt – nothing dainty.
Other streets have the Merman, the Door to the Atlantic,
endless fish on lampposts and mosaics, the Sea Museum,
the nautical jewellery shop. The city runs on saltwater.
But the horses came from the hillside, and settled inside
of me. I would never straddle one, because I was one,
I was every boom as they pounded the earth, every huge
heartbeat and head-toss, every scent and taste and choice.
I lived in the hills, saw no horses, but felt their rhythm:
in the storm that knocked down the tree outside my room,
in the frogs keeping time every night, until we travelled
to Carnota and found a meadow, a mare and suckling foal,
deep in blue and yellow flowers. In class, we learnt how
they bring the horses down from the mountain once a year
to cut their hair. It was a year later that I cut off mine.
They dressed up the roundabout horses in football scarves
before the game against United. My loyalties were torn.
It ended in a draw. Now back home, I wear a silver starfish
around my neck. I carry the horse in me: heavy breath,
Read more >
As I hang mine.
We are forlorn
horses in a barren
field, heads drooping
over brown stubble.
We have sad, dark
eyes. Rivers of sweat
run down our flanks,
streaking our blue-black
hides with rust-red
We seem, to passing
eyes, the saddest
purpose. And yet.
Here we are, nibbling
still at the yellow
tufts of nothing
before us. Making
do. Surviving. Till,
again, we thrive.
these lips will not nuzzle for a treat
this head bent forward waiting for my hand
will not be warm or move at my touch
these eyes will not lift and swallow
all my anxieties and take me deeper
into a place of trust and apples
just this head with ears laid back
yet somehow still I stretch to
run my palm across its comfort
sense the horse and hear a neigh
and I am running running in sunlight
fleet and free and smiling and it
Yes, he said, hold your hand flat
like that, he said. It was late
afternoon on the island, and
my husband cut open the apple.
The day was seasalt and rock
walls, wind in the whinbush.
What I remember is more felt
than seen, the brush of his mouth,
the horse delicate, taking it, watching
as he cut another. I was never
more in love with him than then.
There is a place
~ Will they be okay?
more than an idea, more than a
~ Will they?
The journey is
~ Let us go, won't you?
not what you'd expect or
~ Let us?
We care for you all
~ Do you love anymore?
but to let you leave is
~ Do you?
It is our last horse
~ Leave it with us
and it will only carry
~ Leave it
~ We stand above you, slain
~ No choice, but to take your life
~ The horse was more far more real
~ Than your words proved to be.
I canter warhorse, gymkhana, flat,
plod gentle shire to knacker’s yard,
see mafioso, bed sheet lump,
fear leap school gym, humiliate,
but then I’m calmed, that skin deep mane,
patina, copper oxide melt;
bow before that pastel fade,
though nuzzle-line too sharp defined.
I seek some balance, counterweight,
see fierce outline of contoured shape,
without a height, hand measurement,
my palm moves out to pat, smooth, pat,
stroke forelock, ear flick, ruffle cheek,
run fingers through main rivulets,
As lad from city, engine size,
harness nag of rag and bone,
bridle, blinkers, nosebag sack,
floral displays in stoneware troughs –
teen foreign field of TV turf,
tic tac man in dodgy trade,
airing clothes, rickety horse,
I’ve no affection for the breed.
Poor reproductions from Camargue,
posh cousins in the pony club,
their elders, redcoats, horn and steeds –
so why should this beguile my needs?
‘Don’t raise your eyes,’
‘Don’t come near, stand at a hailing distance,’
‘Don’t pollute our air with your breath,’
‘Don’t enter our temples,’
‘Don’t drink from the well we draw water,’
‘Don’t dream of wearing a sandal,’
‘Don’t dare make a pukka house,’
‘Don’t dream of being buried in our graveyard,' they say.
‘What did I do wrong?’ You whisper, standing at a hailing distance, eyes on the ground.
‘Don’t ask questions, you untouchable.’ They yell and laugh like a hyena.
You raise your eyes and move closer. You see them shudder.
‘No, you have no rights. You’ll be punished.’ They howl. Beneath their conceit, you see fear crawling on them. You inch closer.
‘Go away, shoo.’ Now their pride turns to panic.
Your heart pounds as if it would jump out of your body. Your nerves tighten as if they would snap. Your sweat smells of copper.
You reach them, and they jump up from their ivory throne.
In a swish, they are all gone.
You know they will never return.
You just sit there, on the ground, filling your lungs with freedom, your eyes raised to the skies.
Great movie stars convey emotions, even decisions, through their eyes. They say looking into Garbo's eyes was like looking down long corridors – you could see endless thoughts and feelings – doors opening and closing to infinity. That's how I felt about Duchess's huge and heavy-lidded eyes. I copied them in stone, almost without needing to look at them. My fingers remembered.
Of course I wanted more from the stone but I still got closer to my vision than I ever had before. Carrara Marble – the heaviest stone I've yet worked with – yet you could barely believe it's resting on a plinth. Instead, she seems to be reaching down from the sky, tentatively nibbling grass or sipping water she can barely reach.
I caress those delicate, articulate ears. No-one else is allowed to – even Carrara Marble can be worn away. Her ears are flattened – but not in fear. It's as if she were alive.
The owners of the farm are carrying out their threat to sell the fields. The horse sanctuary is finished. Those of us who loved Duchess can only go to my work for comfort.
I couldn't have my favourite suffering.
The sun shines on autumn trees
Each with own red and golden leaves.
I see a half crescent moon
Hung in the sky, swooping pelicans over the ocean
I hear the waves rising high green marbled white.
What becomes of us, I smell beneath the earth,
Emanating pink and green from the fallen spring.
Breathing life into muted cries, I rescue and resurrect.
I speak of a wondrous world defying barriers
For us and humans all together.
They say "don't hang your head," everything's fine
But I'm not hanging so much as pushing myself back up
Up from the bottom, from my feet through my spine
If I stay down here, how can I start my climb
So I push myself, force myself to backup
They say "don't hang your head," everything's fine
I'm not wallowing in pity, I'm proud as a rise
I dig myself in the ground as I feel my head pickup
Up from the bottom, from my feet through my spine
As I fight through the struggle, I won't let it define
My self-talk becomes "You can do this Buttercup!"
They say "don't hang your head," everything's fine
And finally I'm up, walking on down the line
Though the pain radiates, shooting up,
Up from the bottom, from my feet through my spine
But that tells me it's worth it, the effort, the grind
It starts getting better now, it starts to look up
They say "don't hang your head," everything's fine
Up from the bottom, from my feet through my spine
One of my favorite activities in high school, together with my best friend who was also Bulgarian, was coming up with literal translations of Bulgarian proverbs into English, which we were both still learning at the time. One that always made us laugh was, “The horse went into the river.” Not to be confused with the one about how you can lead a horse to water but can’t make it drink, the Bulgarian saying means something along the lines of, “Everything has gone to hell.” The other expression that we loved translating, then throwing around and giggling, was inspired by an idiomatic criticism, which my mom occasionally, but always lovingly, aimed at me: “Wind is blowing at you on a white horse.” Meaning, you—or in this case, I—didn’t have a care in the world. (Not to be confused with the English “high horse” that people are constantly being told to get off of.)
With time, as my English improved and my head and mouth filled with more and more idioms, I learned other expressions that had to do with horses: “hearing it straight from the horse’s mouth”; “beating a dead horse”; “putting the horse before the cart”; or “not looking a gift horse in the mouth.” This last proverb also exists in Bulgarian, and I especially like the way it sounds in German, because it rhymes: “Einem geschenkten Gaul schaut man nicht ins Maul.”
None of these sayings have to do with actual horses, of course. They have to do with life, and the horses are just stand-ins, like holograms, for how we (are supposed to) deal with it: when making use of opportunities, handling displays of arrogance, deciding on reliability and trust, showing restraint and knowing when to stop, doing things in the right order, graciously responding when we’re given something, even if that something isn’t perfect.Read more >
It’s the silence that brings your presence to me.
We could start up a conversation
talk about your shadows
being trapped in movement without sound.
I picture language as shapes that pass between us
hear breathing in place of our exchange.
What words we could speak.
As it is we found communication
meeting in a language we both know
a poetic safety that surpasses our everyday
gives you back to me –
a linguistic hinterland.
When you were born
you cried and laughed
and I wondered how much sound
could be carried in something so small.
Now we have become horse whisperers
each holding special powers
that calm, that reach through bone and flesh
resonating at heart frequency
what doesn’t need to be said.
(display wall, with other beasties)
‘This is untenable.’
‘I know, darling.’
‘You are untenable.’
(boxed up, package mouthed)
‘So much for a smooth getaway.’
‘You don’t need to talk like that. It’s not impressive.’
(gallery, south side)
‘Jumped up mustard-stain of a man.’
‘Let’s get you cooled off first. Are you thirsty?’
‘What does it matter? What does it matter if I’m thirsty, Peter?’
(private collection, tinsel eared)
(backseat, bubble-wrap trundling)
‘It’s going to fall.’
‘It’s going to fall.’
‘It’s going to fall, Annie.’
‘It’s going to fall.’
a valley of swords cut the sun until it bled a merciless red
until it became a valley of roses at home with the dust
and heat turned to honey (the colour of nikita’s mane)
we made our way through fear and trust; two beasts
demanding freedom while not knowing the rhythm
if you tell a horse not to run enough does it eventually forget?
nikita shook her head, always counter clockwise to the left
while i prayed we’d stay on this path of polished edges—
an untrustworthy smoothness; in another life i rode bareback
and the land was not so thirsty, the sky burnt instead of blue,
the chasm that didn’t end in the emptiness of the what if
and the inability to trust even though there was knowing
and the mercury that dipped as i searched your body
for warmth; we couldn’t have been closer and yet
the disconnect spanned three valleys
and maybe even days in that other life, crossing a loop
in single file, formed like two renegades fully fledged
within the emptiness, so what was the point of it all?
i’m not sure i’m any closer to knowing but it’s already
tomorrow and i think i’ll only get better
sword and scythe washed
sharpened and put away
a farmer is a soldier
in blood of war
in grain gather
blown field of tall golden heads
are horses' manes at a gallop
hard breathing horse
that pulls the chariot that wins
is a gust through the grains
in a dual yoke,
right-hand horse that wins
is strongest animal,
a potent sacrifice
felled by a sacred spear
offered to Battle Changer,
boss of war and bloodshed,
agriculture and virility
It sips this strange air
dips its long brow
dangles its head
like a forearm weeping the length of itself
It has fallen as if through ice
into this world of dying grass
I dream my arm into
the long glove of its head
and run through shopping centres
a false centaur shrieking Look! Look!
I dream it rises like nebula
a cocoon of stars
or hangs in my wardrobe
neatly tying shoelaces with its delicate lips
It has come to taste this place
beyond here its weight is nothing
except that of a billion new planets
Tomorrow it will withdraw
like an arm into a sleeve
and take off this world
leave us to our garish fading light
The decomposition of my body has been painfully slow and I do not recognize this wethered thing that I’ve become. It is as if I have been the unwilling host of a parasite that’s lived beneath my skin and I have been forced to watch as it leisurely sucks the life right out of me. Knowing that one day I will be completely hollowed out. All movement has become a fruitless chore, so I no longer do it. Instead, I spend my days sitting still, petrifying into a statue made of thin skin stretched across a frame of arthritic bones instead of the shiny bronze of my youth.
Beyond this rigid and uncomfortable body, my brain has also become foreign to me. Paths of thought that were once so clearly etched into my mind have been washed away by time and I now live in a vortex of thought and fear. Real memories have mixed with false ones and cause me to question everything.
Life has become confusing and loud around me and I wished to block it out but I cannot lift my green, patinaed hands to cover my ears. Bright colors blur together and hurt my milky eyes, so I keep downcast.
I long to run like a horse put out to graze in eternal pastures. But it is not my time, so I will sit and wait while the parasite eats its fill and I am empty enough to crack open and be set free.
a memory of vivid pasture –
of morning dew spread square by
muscles on the
among golden trails, sun-stretched;
unaware that this day
will never come
air over a quilt of gold ear’d tides
sleeping until called to bed
by bright new
eyes reflect, thinking of
tanned legs galloping
among raw blades of
returns, original yet familiar
a resolution of spirit –
the symbol of life,
The light hazes pink on the afternoon
sea, beached together in soft marble.
Small pebbles, driftwood old and lined
as skin under foot the sounds of
glockenspiel beats. Hollow,
it taps away somewhere
just out of reach.
White horses flicker on the beating
wind and worry the haze. The boat
up ahead is wrecked but still
rolling; a skull strung with
fishing line sways far from
the flock. Someone has lost
a shoe. It is small, two fingers. And
foil scraps catch the light long
before sinking beyond the peak. Neon light
among the pebbles, it cannot save you,
torn like that. How many people,
how many. The hollow glockenspiel
tones. Small bones.
Here you hang disembodied, incomplete
This small part of you, gentle yet powerful
They took your likeness when you were at your peak
A runner, outpacing the field
A winner of trophies and medals from your earliest days
They sensed the power in you
Watched you leave the others standing
Saw you fly the jumps with elegance and grace
You made them millions
And would make more in future years, hired out to sire future winners
Instead a crowded field, a rare misjudgement, a snapped bone
A bullet in the head
In that fine head
Now, here you hang
Eyes down, submissive
But forever a champion
The horse’s head
parts pink fence-rail clouds.
Searching lips lower
to the grass-like green.
Nibble, nibble, nibble
study our world
She makes a soft sound
between a laugh and a nicker,
shakes her head.
in her world.
A head against the odds of pastels
The cracks show
on a log crafted into a horse
head birthed to a log
under the weight of unknowing
The cracks show
like rusty red faults, stark
against the pastels, stuck
to the corroding turquoise, no beginning
A head against the odds of
a log birthing a horse
Under a weight of
Cracks, like blood
coursing down mushy
pastels masquerading lines
Black bronze heavy he drank
in dark shadow.
The blush of spring faded,
faded and melded to jade.
The warmth of summer faded,
faded and wallowed in shade.
As autumn colours faded,
faded as leaves fell and frayed
he dipped into reflection
where frost thawed
to dew on a blade
not iconic not symbol
but flesh they say I'm timeless
tell that to the ostler the blacksmith
tell those who mount me geld me
take my life between legs
feel my muscle thrum veins pound
yes I partnered Boudica` pummeled mud
at Mons hauled boats from seas
made gods of men in Peru
I am history but I step down
from vases no longer heave the Sun
across the heavens or harvest gold
my nose is warm velvet-silk they say
flies sup my blood-heat
birds perch and peck my withers
I wait for you
I had discarded, and watched it transmogrify into the long face of a horse with a flying castle topping its achievement. There and then I knew, for me, there would be no more Carnevale di Venezia, and no more cavorting in English masquerades. Fancy dress parties had turned into fanciful chimera, and May Balls or maypole dances were now obsolete. The horse had bolted ― the genie was out and massively infecting ― we couldn’t go back the way.
Reluctantly I looked at empty streets from my sleepy window, watching traces of yesterday struggling with a song it couldn’t quite sing. There was no flying castle to be found, and no horse-drawn carriage. The colours of the streets were still fresh, except they were clearly declaring self-isolation, a taken-for-granted distancing, whether social or antisocial. As the world forgot how to hug or shake hands I’d rather be out there. Just quietly. Simply walking. Yes, I’d have to put on a mask, not one for the carnival, but mask of a different kind. And yet we mustn’t be without hope, for I’d rather be cartwheeling through the thin air of the lockdown morning.
And then all this reverie evaporated, and you were left wondering: “Have I seen a horse, a mask or a flying castle?” How could you, these days, still believe in seeing things? All you could do was to stand sentinel by the lone window watching nothing. But perhaps even “nothing” could somehow change. Move your head sideways, turn it round two quadrants, or dim the lighting ― and suddenly you did see a flying castle, or a poem blossoming, quarantine notwithstanding. “It is Pegasus!” you suddenly proclaimed. However unlikely it was, you’d continue to dream about flying.
You drop your head to drink
I hear you slake your thirst
after a day of climbing mountain trails
in the Sierra Nevada
you are entitled to your rest
like your namesake
you have your moments
rolling in sand while I’m mounted
stopping to chew vegetation
when you should have been walking on
both of us have raged
you can be obstinate
but on the other hand
you are sure footed on the narrow paths
the steep inclines and deep drops
I would trust you with my life
tomorrow I’ll groom you
until your dark coat gleams
clear your hooves of grit
polish them with a little goose grease
gather your reins
put my foot in the stirrup
I heard directly from the horse’s mouth
His intentions were always good and proper
His love was pure and real, like no other (a Trojan horse).
They never found out, in fact,
His rusty heart was made of cheap metal
Old brass, not bronze, as he led them to believe.
‘Don’t ever look a gift horse in the mouth’
He was handsome (not smart). His sweet talk fooled them around
With his white powdered smile, he convinced every single crowd.
He was cruel and had no respect
But, no one ever suspected. They did not believe he could hurt,
A person or a single fly (that was his biggest lasting lie). Horse feathers.
He never confessed any wrong doing…
He got away with all misleading, so he kept on deceiving,
‘You can lead a horse to the water, but you can’t make it drink it!’
He carried his lies and pretences,
Which spilled out of his shallow grave. At the very end
Of his devoted mother’s life. (who adored him more than herself)
Long after his death, he continued to be admired,
In spite of him being a liar. His reputation grew even taller
For all ‘the good’ that never was (which he was falsely credited for).
That time in France we vacationed
and on the second day you stopped
talking to me completely. Didn't want me in your space. Should have thought of that before your two-week invitation.
I spoke the tongue, but it was a hamlet,
no-one to time-of-day with, even, but
to escape your absence in the house I long-walked the country round about, sprang Winter tree-twigs through my hands to sky, and patted the hedgerows as I plodded on.
Lone in a field, we drew each other in
at the angry fence; you padded over
your own great solitude and it met mine.
I told you everything. I can see now
that you cried my tears at midnight
as another day – the same – began:
they runnelled down your face as they did mine. Apples offered neither of us comfort.
My memorial darling, there was nothing like your listening, reaching down your head to rest it in my hand – the hand not busy wiping my own eyes – as I told you everything and knew you understood.
(You are famous now, have everything you don't deserve. What I know on you.)
You ran as fast as you could
like other horses but you tripped
over, followed by others, and the humans
riding you all. Like dominoes. They broke
their ribs, collarbones and nose,
you name it. One had a brain bleed.
And you, like fish caught and laid
on the ground, were ‘injured’
and ‘euthanised’. We don’t know
if you broke a leg or your hip.
There’s no autopsy, and my friend
metaphorically cried over
the loss of you. Now I can only
imagine you as this head, like a foot
en pointe. You look like drinking
from a pond, when there’s no pond
but a space made of neon colours.
You live on to remind us that fate
is ahead of us all. It’s still winning.
Winter bows down
Another year reflects back
More broken than the last season like this
The wind bites at our ears
Crisp turned bitter
Can we build back from bitter?
Chills swill around heads
Heads bowed to earth turned hard with worry
We languish and wish
We didn’t see this
Staring at this image
takes me back on a ride
to the past
"You can take a horse to the river
but you cannot force it to drink"
a phrase i heard
gazillion times while growing up.
How many times have we stopped
ourselves from taking
a bite from the opportunities
life served us?
Scared to live our
addictive familiar serenity
into the unknown we do not
wish to tread.
Never challenging nor evolving
just us and that same old
familiar pattern in
which we revel.
heartbreaking but true
no nothing new ever grows
comfort zone monoculture
no room for new seed to grow.
As I passed the entranceway to the Museum of Modern Art’s current exhibition of animal likenesses, I caught sight of a lifelike horse head sculpture in the corner of the room. At first, I was unnerved by its brown eyes casting downward until I flashed back to a series of memories that I had of my family in the early seventies.
Uncle Jeff had just come home from opening night of Francis Ford Coppola’s Godfather that played in the Savoy, where I saw the Willie Wonka movie with my father the previous year and stuck a piece of chewed gum underneath the seat for kicks without him knowing. A fan of Hammer horror movies, Uncle Jeff delighted in telling me some of its most gruesome scenes, especially the part where Jack Woltz wakes up in bed to a lot of blood and a decapitated horse head. After Uncle Jack was finished with the spoilers, I caught my father in the kitchen as he finished the last amount of coffee in his Father’s Day mug, the one I made for him in shop class. I asked him to see the movie as my birthday gift since I would be turning fifteen the following Saturday. He nodded his head, then smiled at me.
Hours before that Saturday’s evening movie, my father walked through the door, his left hand gripped his chest while he complained about a loss of feeling in his right arm. I even remembered his exact words. His last words to me. “Son, let me lie down for a bit. We’ll see the movie, I promise.” Mother came home and asked me to unload the groceries from the car. When I came back with the bags, mother was sobbing in father’s favorite chair.
I remember cold winters and wet gloves
waking up at half past six on weekends
but never too tired to take care of you
to crack the ice over your bucket or sweep the stable within an inch of its life
the cold was worth the quiet
no one came to the barn when temperatures dropped or when snow froze over
I took care of all the horses as if each was my own
but I lingered by you
my fingertips would be rough by the turn of each spring
rubbed raw from each morning spent rugging you up
learning more about your habits, your likes and dislikes
because I'd never been so in love with life until I met you
I've cried many tears into your chestnut mane on those mornings
and on heavy nights half way across the world I still think of where you are, or wonder rather
because I no longer have a place to go where the world is so quiet as it was back then
there is space in my heart that only you can fill
On snowy days in London
a rarity, if that
I ask how something once so full
can now be forever empty?
In an instant, everything turned into wreckage. The sounds of aircraft roaring and bombs mercilessly being shot down from the sky of Syria urged people to disperse and scatter like a bursted string of pearls, its beads scattered disorderedly.
It was an unforgettable night when Ali heard his father's voice frantically trying to wake the family, to leave their house and go down for shelter. Frightened, he hurried off his bed.
After hours of continuous bombardment the night turned calmer, although it should’ve already been serene and peaceful.
Ali started looking for his parents and his little sister. “Where are they?” He found no trace of them. He was one of hundreds who lost their families.
Ali came out of the shelter and headed to his home, anxiety growing.
“Oh no..." he said when he arrived. It wasn’t a house anymore, as nothing remained of it, only wreckage.
He looked between the destructions, searching for what those merciless planes had left him, but he only found a horse's head statue remaining steadfast on a table, whose edges were shattered.
A piece of wood. That morphs into a horse in the hands of a carpenter.
When the skilled craftsman begins to lend his final touches to his tail, the horse bolts to escape the force of his fierce iron hammer, his head high, his half-tail bolt upright.
The horse hooves sound tabak, tabak as he enters the market, the carpenter on his trail.
To hide from his oppressor, the horse seats himself on a barber's chair at the marketplace and dons the robe given to him. Stealth and stratagem, he thinks to himself. But the minute the horse sees the barber unsheathe his knife to shave his beard, in the mirror before him, the horse bolts in fright again. His head high, his half-tail bolt upright.
The horse hooves sound tabak, tabak. This time the horse reaches the vegetable market where it begins to snow before the horse can devour a meal. The horse is cold but he keeps his head high and half-tail bolt upright. Catch me if you can, he seems to say to the carpenter still on his trail. And bolts yet again.
The horse finally reaches a farm. His horse hooves sound tabak tabak. A lone child is playing in the garden with his toys. He spots the runaway horse and opens his eyes and arms in delight. "My Neel, my horse, you are home!"
formed from bone, sinew, verdigris veins
I was a horse girl because my mother
before me was shyly fleet and flinty hoofed
I loved what my mother loved, so it began
in small ways: toy horses browsed my bedroom
rug, wild and unsaddled, posters on my walls
made my herd, taught me to canter, nicker,
let the long day drape her sunlight across
our backs while we stood nose to tail on long
dusty afternoons, shivering our skin under
a wide sky, or in the cool darkness of the barn
at night, swallows, bats, owls, sweet hay
they showed me how to make thunder when I ran
to rake the miles beneath me, to stand quietly
in a humming midsummer field, head down
lips to grass, to mold a girl’s body into fur, flesh,
mane, firm flanked—in the winter we breathed
clouds, our lungs inhaled the wind and we
mothered the starred sky with our daughters.
Long ago, in human terms, a vast army of warrior horsemen set forth from the steppes that had birthed them. This savage and irresistible force, more so than anything the earth had ever witnessed, swept across the known world, leaving death and destruction in its wake. Driven on by their leader, a ferocious hulk of wolfskin and gleaming silver, they paused only to feed and briefly rest themselves and their steeds before continuing their charge towards an unknown horizon. To conquer, strip bare and move forward was all they knew or cared for until finally and literally they ran out of lands to ravage. As the earth beneath them tapered away the gargantuan horde found itself on the threshold of a seemingly boundless expanse of water, a vision beyond all experience. Lined up on the shore in front of this incomprehensible barrier, all movement stilled save for the breathing and the heart-beating of men and beasts. Then, breaking the seal of this frozen time, the leader eased his mount forward and thrust his sword tip toward the sea. At once, an earth-rending cry of defiance broke forth from the massed ranks behind him. Spurs dug into reluctant horseflesh and the great mass of cavalry charged into the ocean. Somehow, by sheer force of will, the warriors urged their steeds into and then atop the onrushing waves. Mile after mile they rode, hooves skimming across the surf until, eventually and inevitably, belief faltered and gravity reasserted itself…Read more >
Anne laughed at me today, the tone of her voice lovely yet still it invaded the chambers of my heart. She meant it humorously, the way she pointed to the chips in my sculpture and accused me of making the holes myself.
I tried to tell her the clay shaped itself in the same way water finds pathways under rocks compacted in mud. I tried to tell her the mosaic shards, in various tenors of blue and grey, arranged themselves to mimic the fluctuating tones in a shadow that lies across and so moves with the rippling grass.
I tried to tell her about movement and fluidity and control. I tried to articulate the things you told my hands and the dreams you inspired in my eye, but Anne, she laughed and, where her eyes were mirthful, there was no understanding.
She does not feel your pull the way I do, the way your hollow insides hold the moon and pulse with the Milky Way. She does not see the way your cracks are portals to alien galaxies where once you roared and fed on stars.
I see the form
of a woman,
ancient goddess of
soft curves behind.
Her bronze body a trunk,
reaching skyward in praise,
supplication. Head missing
like Nike of Samothrace.
So many without voices,
soft smiles only imagined
by the scores of daughters
Only after do I see
that she is a horse,
hesitant ears back,
from unseen hands.
The image brings me the image of a horse's head in the famous work, “Guernica”, by the Spanish painter Pablo Picasso Pictures tell you when words fall short The human soul, there, as here, manifests its cry, its dread, its suffering The human journey is a daily exercise in reflection on nature, even more, on the life that moves over the face of the earth Even more devastating is this objectification of everyday life, the struggle for the survival of beings increasingly trapped, in cities and forests, in the tropics and savannas, in the oceans and in the human heart Where did we get lost My soul, our souls cry out for the place of peace, coziness, kind and caring relationship – loving, free as the birds that cross the sky Where and how to get out of everyday death, imposed and introjected sameness My soul, our souls, where can you find them Ah, within me the tides move and that alone makes me go mad That's why I go to the trees of the wild forest, to hear their birds and the wind in their leaves The language of the crickets, the whisper of the stream, the tromp of herds over the green plain To hear the chords of my soul, like putting sticks on the fire of my heart so that it doesn't fade and fade Ah, I see myself as a wanderer of the stars, trying, with my falling heartbeats, to make the flames of my love flow over everything – I struggle not to grow cold any more than it sometimes does That's why I need nature and I need you, be it a beetle, a crow flying over the blue, a river that flows and quench my thirst, a luminous light that inspires me, a cordial smile, a voice singing in the evening solitude, revealing who I am and how we are, human A woman, always there, to warm my feet and my heart, afflicted and thirsty Listening to the chords of your pulse, your heat, your breathing, oasis of my loneliness
At first, I saw a monkey appear
beneath your ear, and laughed
at the giraffe of you.
Wood, or bronze, a floating shape
I cannot trust – ambiguous.
At first, I saw a horse head,
then a ballerina’s foot.
A coat hook, clear enough –
maybe, but it is late
and I am still unsettled.
The way in which we stick our necks out was the difference between them and us, as my grandfather used to say. We lived with an accent within an accent. Where would he have learned such accommodation for others in the highest hills of Sicily? How would one extend themselves? To whom would one run?
My grandfather imagined himself Mussolini on a horse so grand and so high, only a man of brutal stature could climb. His mother twisted her bridal apron in her hands and would send him off with the clusters of uva, plucked from the vine and warmed by the African sun. The basket sat on the back of a horse with little potential in the way of conveyance, but managed to get the job done. The uva were carried from those with great need to those with dance and drink on their minds. My great-grandmother would wait in early evening for the arrival of the old horse and my grandfather, by looking for the glow of his cigarette. Every night, without fail, the horse would drink for moments on end from a wooden bucket of water, while my grandfather would whisper, "Everything or nothing at all," over and over in his dialect.
Oh Dio, his mother would say to the phases of the moon, crossing herself, praying to keep the landowners at bay.
head in atrophy
medals no longer
hang from neck
you are fodder
ascend to higher place
halcyon green meadow
birthed as foal
free of saddle
untamed you were
willing the end
to be quick
Read more >
Scott’s foal of Falkirk
Horse’s head at The Helix
Kelpie from the Forth
Bridging communities at the Carron
Symbolic of free-spirits
Shape-shifting at will
Guardian of sailors
The towering water-borne gateway
Legend in our lifetime
In tandem with sibling
From dark days of history
Bright as the future for Scotland
Is it enough to raise a child with the idea of a horse?
No worries about dirty flies or broken backs or swift kicks.
No need to say Hand Flat, Hold Still, Rub Gently.
A horse is just a shape, a cardboard cut-out, a sense of speed.
A tale of knights charging and wings spreading under heroes
before they fall. A pet for small girls in books, winning prizes.
Horse is just a symbol, for those who can afford to leave
small children behind closed doors, and take a ride.
Horse is just a word, an image, a means to an end.
Horse is not extinct because he lives in fingerprints on the wall,
in the chalk upon the ground. We know he stamps his hooves and snorts.
We know his big teeth only bite lumps of sugar.
No one needs to know how many hands high he was,
to look far down into the ditch as we leave fallen comrades in a field,
to be carried faster than the wind, without a shield of glass.
Horse appears on the front cover, the t-shirt, the birthday card every year.
His shoes hang above the door. He carried naked women aloft;
perhaps he is only a story after all.
Front & center,
it controls its cheeks
to keep the peace.
Like an orange sunset,
anyone can transform
to a predator.
Green eyes yellow,
like slow madness
on fallen angels.
Color in what may,
noise points away from
the master’s touch.
the raging human
arrogantly beats red
every bone in its body,
overtaken by force.
The horse ages,
bleeding while drinking
its last remnants of water
before striding in between
Relief is bothered.
Who cares you're not a reindeer?
Coughing glitter in the squinting starlight
For the odd addled carrot
In the sour glow of Rudolph's glory.
Who cares you're not a unicorn?
Unapproachable and arrogant
Preened in pompous supremacy
You'd gloat over others
All that shining and buffing
For no one to really believe in you after all!
Who cares you're not a race horse?
Laden with debt and promise,
Breaking your back for broken homes
Spits and snarls cutting the cheers
You'd run for.
It's you we see! Wonderful you!
Worn with strength and love
And upon your face
We can trace
An etch-a-sketch of
cheers and tantrums
Which you carried us through unfazed
And when your load grew heavy
And your knees did bend and grey
We breathed you back to life
This horse wants to sink its feet
in the ground, scratch its rump
against the sky, and fill its
vacant hours with memories
of meadows, scented hay and
sweet green grass. A dusty road
to run and run on, and to gallop
over the juices of earth, and to
never return from where it came.
And when it sleeps, it dreams of
hurdling those night black trees,
of a rider's voice, a horn, a saddle.
This horse, a carved vein of stone,
wants to set itself free on ground.
Molochize your breaths for a Windmill like Boxer
smolder in the blazing passion of a philanthropic heart
innocence knows no gimmick no lies for it proudly
stands rampant as a horse like a wood-carved sculpture
you'd see in a museum redolent of renaissance & cavalry
tints of fuchsia, Dutch pink, laurel green – elation
flow like inspiration in the veins of a beautiful mind
like gossamer is the intricacy of a Machiavellian scheme
of Snowball & Napoleon & like an apparition
invisible & imperceptible to those who like breathe
& dwell in the fire of love like a Salamander
unity now has become a cavaletto to hold the canvas
of left wing endeavours that cloak the selfish interests
of those on whom you rely for a true reformation
singing the anthem of the Animal Farm, we all end up
like Boxer or like a chameleon in bosky shades
every morning my horse turns to face condensation
sparkling white light of the east-facing windows
every afternoon my horse turns restlessly to jingles
swirling noisily on afternoon television adverts
every evening my horse turns to greet twilight’s
blue estuary with a look of wistful melancholy
my horse is wisely resigned to rituals of the lounge
where she rests on the coffee table. it is clear
she relishes white sunlight, snorts and twitches her ears
(notches where branches could have sprouted)
twists, grimacing at E colours, the artificial additives
of advertisements, graciously accepts blue ebb tides
but at night, her blood gallops with Marlowe's horses
and a woman recites, O lente, lente, currite noctis equi
He arrives each night
gently whinnying, his breath scented
with summer grasses and meadowsweet.
He tilts his head to one side as if to ask Where to?
and I clamber aboard his broad back
Fingers twined into the coarse hair of his mane,
I grip his flanks. We settle into the rhythm of his canter.
We follow country lanes, pausing only when
Clare points out a nest concealed in whitethorn
or Hardy bids us listen to a darkling thrush.
Beside a lake we watch as Old Man Wainwright
scratches his inky map of Scafell Pike.
We ford a stream where Constable
looks up briefly from his easel.
We jump a hedge where Hughes's Thoughtfox
shelters from the wind.
As dawn burns her way across a leaden sky
he lets me down and turns to go. I stir a little,
hear his hoofbeats on the cobbled street grow distant.
I bury my face in feathered pillows,
listen to the inhale, exhale of my own breath,
allow sleep to reclaim me.
The horse cometh
An ending soon after
Beware the mighty silence
The horse the horse
Long she is over due
Beware the mighty quiet
The ending an end
Greatly is it needed
Beware the mighty stillness
Cast ye away all greed
Away all thy anger
Beware the mighty womb
Shun thee thy wickedness
Set ye down thy evilness
Beware the mighty silence
Seek ye within kindness
Take to thy heart gentleness
Beware the mighty quiet
Armour thy soul in love
Norrish within ye thy goodness
Beware the mighty stillness
I was carved—
chiselled from wood
as I grazed infertile land.
protecting my perfect form
strained my muscular back.
If I quivered
my belly or thighs—
loosening tight knots
with fizzling pain.
I didn’t want to.
I had no choice.
I had to gallop
through fogs of foul gas,
through fires and firings
of terrifying bangs.
I did it for you.
Fire burned a hole in my skin—
I was mired in mud—
The dichotomy of black and white died a while ago on the board. Boxes were beaten black and blue. The bishop gave up and blurted out that the king had lied. The facade of the game was exposed. The futility of the play was publicized.
There won’t be games anymore, they said. They sharpened their knives and crippled the knight. The new masters talk of shades of grey. Why choose a side when we can collectively decide. Rules will change and tables will turn but the squabble for power will creep again. The privileged ‘equals’ will ditch the heads and keep the crown.
The memory of the pawns we tossed in fire will avenge us while the sword of our time melts away. The play won’t terminate. Ways won’t mend and ends won’t change. Knights of today will turn into broken horses. New battles will still be red and mundane.
Our tales will gradually turn into artifacts.
she wore the horse head
and I wore the cow’s
We both mooed because
horse sounds were tough
She left town the next month
and the horse head lay there,
in a corner of the classroom
looking sad and collecting dust
We met again in our twenties
She fiddling with her coffee mug
and I chasing away steam from my tea
She pretended to be a horse
and I felt like I was being a cow
We both just mooed shyly
In our thirties I found her with a horse head
So I put on the best cow head I had
We sat quietly mooing with our eyes
There wasn’t much to say anyway
We met recently again in kindergarten
Her son was wearing a cow head
and my daughter chose a cow head too
In a corner lay an old horse head,
looking sad and collecting dust
Your horse steps down to sleep.
It is a stone horse,
a vivacious vivid whiskey drinking horse.
A war horse.
After, we put you out to pasture, still
dreaming the exploding sky
of sulfur and starlight.
Cascade of bodies in territories
in-between vision and remorse.
You are an ancient horse,
a Christmas horse, hoar frost
on trees, sputtering in the curiosity of focus.
A movement between ardor and enticement,
the entertainment of fluid reach, to drink
from pink sands – The Sea of Cinnamon.
It is a horse story, all horse opera –
the operatic storm, a house in flames.
Galloping, rushing, standing still –
therapeutic lowing, the glance of the statuesque Horse
in National Ardor – unforgiving,
Pull the statues of War down – (won't help).
Your horse, stretched, chiseled,
sculpted on a pedestal, a stand, a
horse on display, a horse, of course,
misused, in misguided missiles.
Read more >
It never ceases to surprise to me, that those who stand in front talking ‘at me’, assume I understand what they are saying. It annoys me when they stop and look at me as if I am some type of alien. Worse still are those who insist on stopping and rubbing my nose whilst uttering incomprehensible drivel! I often wonder how they would feel if I suddenly said, “Oh shut up you moron.” That would give them something too talk about.
Yesterday I was minding my own business, just standing in my paddock soaking up the summer warmth, when someone called out to me. I turned and was confronted by a green haired, multi tattooed visage with a child.
As she stopped, I noticed the rings through her nose. Must be where they attach her bridle. She hauled the terrified child out of its carriage, sat it on the fence and waved at me whilst holding up something in one hand.
Curious as to what she wanted, I ambled over and snuffled the object she held out. A carrot, a bloody carrot. Some people have no imagination. I detest carrots. I am horse, not a bloody rabbit!
Not satisfied with trying to poison me, she then proceeded to ramble on to the clearly terrified child, who wailed at the top of its lungs, suddenly went red faced and began to smell funny. I took a step back, raised my head regally and spoke to them in my own language. They looked at me as if I was stupid. I stepped forward and nudged the child on its nose. After all, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, is it not?
Apparently not. The child became apoplectic flailing legs and arms, still screaming at the top of its voice. The tattooed visage began using words I only ever heard when my owner had trouble getting a bridle on me. She threw the carrot at my face, dragged the child from the fence and stomped off, yelling dark threats in my direction.Read more >
It’s their day – Dad Day. Collected at ten am every second Saturday, following the same routine. A walk in the park, then a visit to the local gallery before lunch in the café. No deviation from the established schedule, but it is Dad Day, so Boy and Girl don’t mind. At least they see Dad.
They look at the art. Boy sees that Dad keeps looking at his watch. He always does that when they’re together.
There is something new to see.
“What is it?” asks Girl.
“Can’t you tell?” says Dad. “Look carefully. It’s obvious.”
“A horse,” Boy says simply.
“The old joke,” Dad laughs. They look at him. They don’t know it. He tells the joke and ends with “Why the long face?” and laughs again.
Boy smiles but Girl looks puzzled.
“I don’t get it,” she says. Boy snorts his derision and Dad places a hand upon Boy’s shoulder to quieten him and silently shakes his head. Boy gets the message and shuts up as Dad says to Girl, “It doesn’t matter Sugar. It’s just a silly joke.”
“Let’s go eat,” suggests Dad and Boy says, “Yes, let’s go.” He wants to move on. Perhaps he has upset Dad and he doesn’t want to be in his father’s bad books. He wants to please Dad, not make him cross. It’s important.
Lunch is fish, chips, ice-cream. They eat slowly and Dad asks about their school, their friends, their mum. There isn’t much to tell as it doesn’t really change. Lessons, games, and Mum sometimes crying when she thinks that Boy and Girl can’t hear her.
Dad looks away when they tell him that, then changes the subject.
“We’re going to have to go soon,” he says.
Boy looks at him.
“But it’s our time with you,” Boy says.
“It’s the only time we get to see you, Daddy,” whimpers Girl. Read more >
As I sit in the waiting area, I stare at the small sculpture of a horse's head that sits opposite me, firmly positioned on a clinical white stand. The horse looks like he is done waiting, while I am still in the anxious phase, not having reached boredom quite yet.
The room is white, but there are mud stains on the floor from where people have walked. Based on the amount of slush, in front of a chair, you can guess which one was sat on for the longest wait.
My eyes scan the room: right to left, then left to right again. There are framed pictures positioned at regular intervals on the walls. All frames are white, but the pictures are all of a different style and appear to have no common theme. The first one features spring blossoms, the second one a field with workers – what a sad imagine to be looking at – and then some ducks and what looks like New York.
In the middle of all this, there's the horse, and my eyes keep returning to it. It looks so alive that its missing body makes me feel unnerved. Who chose to collect these pieces of art and put them together? Was it random? And why?
I try to imagine what I would have done: what would go nicely with the centerpiece, the horse? I study its lowered head: its kind eyes have a defeated look and I appreciate the work that has gone into the sculpting. The ears look very much alive and I believe they are listening to my thoughts. Good boy, there there. I almost reach out to pet him.
The blue streaks amongst the copper create an admirable illusion of hair and as I stare more and more intensely at the horse right across me in the large waiting room, it starts to float. I swear, it looks like it's moving! The horse head becomes bigger and bigger, until it's right in front of me and the world turns into lovely rainbow colours. Read more >
The mare, mother of the herd.
She stands amongst her kin as they dance amongst the grass, her eyes never straying from the horizon.
Her children do not go far.
Dust clouds blur lines between the sky and earth, at night they will see smoke and the glow of firelight in the distance.
She had seen it all before.
Had the herd not fled from the east, would they know what creatures brought this flame?
If they moved again could they outrun this beast forever?
West, along the river, that is where they will go.
You see me though my mind is elsewhere.
Here to where, I don’t know.
What do my preying eyes tell you of me?
360 degrees but the depth of what I see is beyond me.
Let me tell you how to see.
Not in suffering ready to break free.
Not a pervasive dark sculpted beauty.
Not just an animal or maybe my body being that of a human-being.
Not consuming whatever sustenance, you think is before me.
Not curiously observing for survival.
You see only what’s before you, not what you should make of me.
What do you see before you?
You see me in waiting, waiting for what,
Waiting to consume the dire straits of our society.
Or, maybe you see me only as a horse.
What about the relation I observe between you and me?
Our ancestral genes, though rearranged, make up only our half-truth.
I may be a beheaded majestic creature whose bodily form was taken, but the body of truth is what lies deeply beneath.
Our ancestral past is hidden, yet we are here, two mammalian kin grazing through blind times.
If we saw each other beyond what we see, what would we be?
We will become fully aware of a oneness that is not rare.
Awaken to what is really meant to be seen.
I may be a Mare or a Black Mystery.
Skin of metal or stone, severed from a body of thought that once held purpose.
Isolation is the existence of the ancient. A relic of story and time waits to again be a spectacle.
Judgement is cruel. The critic casts doubt on what could be. There is one word attributed to such a display –