Poetry in Horses

The Night Horses

are stalled between sleep and dreaming.
In the steading they lower their massive heads
to the earth’s nod. In darkness
white-faced Clydesdales lip at nothing.

Below a halo of bats they rest their load
of feather and bone and horn. They hear,
don’t hear, the scrape of shoes, as a gelding shunts
his weight to tilt the other haunch.

Their slow brains orbit the tracks and rigs
breathing in water, heather, grasses.
Sometimes through the slats above their heads
they watch the burn and tremor of the stars.

(by Jean Atkin from Not Lost Since Last Time Oversteps Books 2013)

Jean Atkin
works as a writer and educator, and lives in Shropshire.

by Colin Will

Difficult to know what a horse thinks,
but sometimes it’s obvious,
like that stallion on the choir’s French tour,
our outing to the national stud of France.
Must have caught a whiff of mare
and that huge schlong emerged, embarrassing
the sopranos, and some of the tenors.

Other times, in a cold field
wearing a stiff canvas rug
against rain driven by a gale,
they stand still, mute, for hours.
You imagine their thoughts running slow,
then the shutter blinks –
and don’t they have beautiful lashes? –
the most stoic of beasts.

When I was young, the next field
was full of ponies, and I watched them,
talked to them, rubbing their necks,
avoiding their teeth, getting my hands
black and sticky from dirt and dried sweat,
the pungent smell of them, their love
of Polo mints, their crunching, sucking sounds,
head nods, soft whiskery mouths.
Time came when they’d stroll over
to the fence when I arrived
and I knew the pecking order –
who must be fed first, who last,
who never. I don’t know why
they were kept in the field –
nobody rode them, groomed them –
but I spoke, and they listened;
recognition enough.

Watch them run, warm Spring day,
new pasture, good company,
for the horse is nothing if not
in a herd. Know horse joy.

Colin Will is a poet and publisher living in Dunbar. He has had six collections published, the latest being The Propriety of Weeding (Red Squirrel, 2012). A new collection of haibun written at Hawthornden, The Book of Ways, is coming in autumn.

Port Meadow
by Ailsa Holland

The horses are proof that this is heaven.

They graze on the other side of the river
which runs just out of sight, like a secret.

All around is the green of our dreams
and daisies for a lifetime of picnics, more.

We talk our way towards the ruin,
then stop and turn. Horses!

And on the horizon, the spires, wishing.

Ailsa Holland moormaidpress.co.uk @ailsaholland

Snow Ponies
by Rebecca Gethin

I follow their tracks with the arrow-shaped centres
and up ahead through the blizzard spot two legs,
then a crowd of legs. A sheep bleats but it ‘s not one of them.
The steam of their breath, the smell of their fur
and their droppings draw me toward their warmth –
manes and tails slicked with melting snow. As I draw closer
their nostrils quiver; their whiskers clink with frost.
The herd encircles me. We stand and watch each other.
When I speak to them their ears swivel.
I want to touch their bay and charcoal coats
but as I stretch my hand toward them
they move aside as if I have betrayed myself.
I stop to look back and they are nibbling gorse.
Starlings exclaim as if the falling snow spoke.

Rebecca Gethin’s most recent book is A Handful of Water, published Feb 2013, Cinnamon Press

close reading
by Ken Taylor

the foaling season is greeted with the warm
receptions. each small dark place a receiving
area: first word then tongue then an opening
moistens & lets in. it was all crafted to ripen
into title during the evolutions & discarding:
picks among bric-a-brac at low tide & simple
syrup & spurious children & kitchen smells &
the temperatures: all a gesture towards song.

made to show teeth to keep the job, hens
articulate coffee regular & shoulder against
snow: wish for cord blood bank. wish for 17
hands. down the stretch, dogwoods still pull
focus: charisma gathered early for the taste
of pink & white. stakes winner licks new hide.

(from first the trees, now this Three Count Pour 2013 & Carolina Quarterly Spring/Summer 2012)
Ken Taylor @heyclown