The horses are still. Some may be sleeping,
others hold that blank, vacant stare.
Those black marbled eyes look right through you.
We fit each with a rain sheet, wrap their newborn-like
bodies from tail to mane and leave them
in the paddocks to stand in the rain.
Are we old, then? When were we last clothed?
What did we learn? Some do dress appropriately.
Boots, raincoats, waterproof trousers and thick socks.
Others look pale, thin, holding that empty gaze
unknowing why they’re shivering.
So they roll cigarettes, heat their lungs,
give their bodies some warmth that no one sees.
It is Thursday. The bottle is empty. My glass
nurses only a rusty smell of brown ale.
I sit alone, hands wringing, thinking there must
be some pool in this still parched mind of mine.
Please, inspiration. My empty page longs for print,
like a kingsize bed yearns for company. Speaking of –
– the neighbours upstairs are back. Going at it.
The headboard bangs the wall, the bed legs chafe
the carpet, to the repeated cry of drunk success.
His dull moan to her shrill yes.
Like a beggar beneath a water pump,
I raise my glass to catch whatever lend
could end this long drought. I feel it, seeping
through the mattress, passing between
the floorboards, sinking through the foam insulation,
working down the wire into the lightbulb, the lightbulb
that burns above my head. A bright idea for the dim.
Down it goes through my arm. To my hand. My pen. This poem.
Moulding tides, casting waves,
work, abrade coarse rock
to rounded pebbles.
I pick one and skim
centuries across the surface.
and I do not know how long it had been there.
The sweet thing, nestled, clung to a follicle,
black, silent, minute, and a winged witness
to my words, my breath, my pulse, routing
along my jawline, neighbour to the food
I ate. Perhaps it even had a moment to share
the scent of my sandwich, the burn of mustard
through my skin. We were close, you and I,
and went together through most of a day.
In the morning, maybe, you found solace there,
comfort in my mess of bristle and hair, and passed
soon after. I half-thank the people I met today
for not telling me about your small, quiet presence.
There are not many things we share,
humans, animals, insects, and even, perhaps,
your last breath, the final, tiny seep, expelled
into mine, and I’ll carry you always from now.
I found you in the morning. Curled in the corner.
Your rich walnut back and coconut belly coat
cuddled in a tiny crescent. Still upon the sawdust.
He’s just gone to sleep, she told me,
from kind cradled arms.
I said some words and wept and then I buried you
in a hole that took ten minutes to dig.
I can’t remember the name I gave you
but I can summon from that memory your light weight,
how you fit my palm as I carried you to the garden.
We met in the hospital, followed the nurse down the stairs,
crept into the ward and found you, tucked in tight,
and then we gathered at the side of the bed,
closed the curtains, watched as the nurse attended,
and your breathing quickened and then it slowed
and your cheeks lost their volume
and your complexion shallowed
and your chest deflated
and your shoulders sank
and your head dropped to the side
and you went quiet.
Your old, gruff voice I can’t quite recall.
What stayed was the weight of your heavy hand,
cold and coarse, as I held it to say goodbye.
I took the ten-twenty into town today.
Walked the promenade. The market.
The busiest the place has been in years
and I felt lonely. I left
to drink coffee by the canal,
decided to feed the ducks.
A whole afternoon went,
tossing them crumbs, freckling
the still water with bread.
Trying – to ignite a night sky
with bright stars in that black
thick of peat. Those ducks pecked
at each morsel, dipped their heads,
came out, and shook off the water.
Before, I nearly bought a beer
for the man who sits outside
the post office. I would have spent
a whole day listening to him sing
that he lost his father in a house fire,
and that he is not scared of death.
What is there to say
of the small plot
of my work?
It stands collected,
like a forest
of dumb giants.
to no exact.
Peeled bark, healed,
scabbed, roots upturned,
A few I left to grow
to see how tall
they could get
with no guidance.
But this is no way to live.
And so I’ll take an axe.