Monday, 25 April 2016

Dannie Abse: Horse

You can't quite
identify it
the long straight road
zipping between hedges
to a scandalously
gorgeous sunset.
As you look closer
shading your eyes
with your right hand
vigilant you'll see
the visitant
the white horse
half way down it.

Do you remember?
Your father drove the car
the family squabbling
this way years ago
many a time
this Roman road
that's empty now
but for the distant
truant pink horse
with a barely
red shadow
racing towards
the signals of sunset.

War-high in the sky
vapour trails fatten
and you know again
the common sense
of déjà vu. Perhaps
someone far from home
should be playing
a mouth organ
a melody slow
and sad and wanton
a tune you've heard
but can't quite say
as the purple horse
surprises the sunset.

And you close your eyes
trying to name it all.
But you recall only
the day's small prose
certain queachy things
what the office said
what the office did
as the sunset goes
as the black horse goes
into the darkness.
And you forget
how from the skin
below your own thumbnail
your own moon rises.

From Ask the Bloody Horse (1986). Lots of interesting ambiguity here. Is the horse a real horse? Is it a day, or a life? Is it one of England's white horse chalk carvings? There's a theme of deflation, of what's lost in "maturity": the black horse goes into the darkness.