THE HORSES

Why had they come – the men on horses? 
They must have ridden miles to reach us, 
but why? 
The winter came quickly 
that year. Nothing, until I woke 
one morning to find the fields slain 
by frost, the house quiet, no one risen                                                             though the cock had crowed at dawn                                          
to warn us, as he always did. 
It was ------- in the year of our Lord. 

I knew it was time to rise and dress 
but the room was blue, and unless 
------ had soundlessly lit the fire 
the whole house would be frozen. I lay 
and thought of the weeks to come, 
no, months, how cut off we were from 
the world when deep snow came, as I 
knew it surely would. Why had he 
brought us here, miles from -------- ? 

Each window was on fire, a blaze 
of ice fanning out blindly across 
the glass in scrolls until the old 
house seemed smaller, as if cold 
had seeped into its crabbed timbers 
to make it groan like an old timer 
full of early morning aches and pains. 
I heard a noise. The day began. 

As if a ghost had breathed its last 
outside the house, a freezing mist 
hung around for days until we felt 
alone, abandoned to a fate 
we did not deserve but which lay 
in wait for us. We might disappear 
before our neighbours were any 
the wiser, or care, so far were we 
removed from life. Sent out to feed 
the hens, I breathed in the boiling cold 
until it felt as if my lungs 
would burst, so dense the mist which hung 
about the place, shrouding the farm 
from all that lay beyond the barn, 
the world from which the horses came. 

A downfield thunder at first, 
everything hidden by the mist 
until they emerged, three horsemen 
riding at breakneck speed to the fence line 
where they pulled up short and looked about. 
The horses were fine steeds, a chestnut, 
a black, and the third a blood bay, 
imperious creatures, the way 
they stamped the ground with their hooves, 
snorting rubbery approvals 
of themselves into the frozen air, 
their breath serving only to further 
cloud and mystify the scene 
before me. I carried a pail of grain 
to feed the cow, and would have fed 
their horses too, but something made 
me step back, the way they bridled 
under the bit, they way they bared 
their teeth as if ready to eschew 
any offering I might make. You, 
boy, tell your father we are here.
 

My father came but I could not hear 
what passed between the four of them. 
Next day he left at dawn, the farm 
still lost in mist. He did not return, 
and we did not speak of him again, 
or hear from again, no word 
at all. It was ------- in the year of our Lord. 

 

◄ PEN

BLOW THE WIND SOUTHERLY ►

Comments

Tony Hill

Mon 12th Oct 2020 21:33

Thank you for your kind words, Shifa. I wanted to create a sense of helplessness. These are dark days. I hope you and your family are keeping safe. Tony

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Shifa Maqba

Mon 12th Oct 2020 19:39

You've weaved such a fascinating story within your poem. Simply brilliant!

Tony Hill

Mon 12th Oct 2020 17:21

Thanks for the perceptive comments, M.C. This pandemic has shrouded us in a mist of confusion - mixed messages, contradictory scientific information and worst of all a sense of helplessness against a force we can’t see but which threatens our existence. Tony

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M.C. Newberry

Mon 12th Oct 2020 17:08

This tale unfolds but never quite reveals - just like the mist that
permeates its content. Intriguing camp-fire fare that invites the
reader (listener?) to be present for the next chapter.

Tony Hill

Mon 12th Oct 2020 16:57

Hi Stephen, I started to write a poem about a favourite painting of mine by a little known Polish artist. But as I progressed I realised that poem was moving in another direction, no doubt nudged by the isolation many of us are feeling these days. We seem at the mercy of this arbitrary destructive force. Tony

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Stephen Atkinson

Mon 12th Oct 2020 16:27

Intriguing little tale. Left me wanting to know more...👏

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