26 May 2015

Tuesday Poem: Lot 165, by Marty Smith



No one has come to look at my teeth.
Flies licking the weep of my waxy lashes.

‘The heavy horses are quiet fortresses.
Dependable,’ the grandmother huffs,
settling on her knotted legs. She feels my tendons.
Her perm from the Swan Lake Hair Salon.
To her floral blouse, matching pleated skirt
I appeal, I try not to creak.

She means cart-horses and draught horses.
Those horses pull wagons, not race for Sheiks.
If she knew her history.
I’m a light-boned Arab, my pedigree
goes right back to Saladin. I carried Sultans,
we ran rings round Crusaders on big heavy horses
to haul big clanking knights. We left those horses for dead.
I’m looking right at her, carrying my gift from the past.
For the want of a nail.
I make my eyes soft and sharp.

‘Getting old,’ she says. ‘Maybe time for cat food.’
She’s looking for heart room, I breathe out dark red air.

She could carry me in her arms.
She could bed me down in straw.
I’m near to my knees, pleading.

Credit note: "Lot 165" is from Marty Smith's collection Horse with Hat and is reproduced by kind permission of the author. Horse with Hat is available from VUP.

Marty Smith says: Horses have large round eyes like billiard balls set in the sides of their heads, which means they can see behind for danger. So the horse might as well tell the story of the long relationship between men and horses, in which horses always end badly. The poem also takes a gentle poke at the way horses are often represented in a mawkishly sentimental way.

Tim says: I've been nervous around horses ever since John Meredith's fifth birthday party. John lived along Glengarry Crescent from me. The feature of his fifth birthday party was a large and placid horse in the back garden, on which the partygoers were offered rides. When my turn came, I lasted partway round the ride before sliding off the back of the horse and falling to the ground - and though I have since ridden horses without repeating that indignity, I have never quite conquered those early nerves. So I am glad to present a poem seen from the horse's point of view, from a poet with infinitely more confidence around and knowledge of horses than I - and a wonderful ability to express that in her poetry.

The Tuesday Poem: This week, I'm the Hub Editor, and the poem I've chosen is How They Came To Privatise The Night by Maria McMillan.

3 comments:

Helen Lowe said...

Another excellent choice, Tim, together with Maria McMillan's poem on the Hub. Thank you (& to Marty, too, of course) for posting "Lot 165" today.

Tim Jones said...

Thanks, Helen!

Helen McKinlay said...

A lot of feeling for horses here.So often we seal their fate and they give us so much.
A very touching poem.