A poem by Clifford Forde

Sunday Afternoon at the Pictures

I remember that beginning in the darkening hall:
we country boys, breathless, horses held on a tight rein,
those hard-edged chairs in rows and our elbows tucked in;
pockets bulging with small apples from the field,
our knuckles whitening – ready for the off.
The usher with his torchlight rakes our jiggling knees,
keeping us in line and growling at our clattering.
And now the da da-da da of the stuttering horn
releases us into the wide and open range beyond,
the sound of thrumming hooves is music to our ears
and we are free: first at a canter, then at a full career.
That clarion horn again: a call to us from distant hills,
and I am out in front at last, my country cloak cast off.
Yes, I am he, The Lone Ranger, in all my finery.
Arrow-straight we fly, me and my glistening, silver steed
towards our goal. The mask I wear fits perfectly, I know,
for I am changed, as I would want to be – defiant,
strong and brave and just: master of everything.
And yet I must go on and on as up the slope we climb,
I call my horse by name and urge him further on: Higher, Silver!
(Winner of the BBC Radio 3 Poetry Proms Competition 2011)
Clifford Forde lives in London and is a retired teacher.