Pa­tri­cia Mc­Carthy

All My Long-Gone Horses & Son­nets Made of Wood

The London Magazine - - CONTENTS - Pa­tri­cia Mc­Carthy

‘All the long gone dar­lings’ from Sylvia Plath’s ‘All the Dead Dears’

They walk along with me, side by side: my horses of a life­time: a chest­nut, grey, skew­bald, two dark browns, a bright bay, palomino, nuz­zling, whick­er­ing at me to take them all, bare-back, for a ride.

In the switch­back fields they grazed I know each hump, sett, each fox’s run, which holly bush they chose for pro­tec­tion in east­erly blasts, which branches in sum­mer formed canopies against flies as the sun blazed.

I de­scend the slopes as if I have hooves, feel the firmer sandy ground they found for gal­lop­ing down to a halt, and around over the gully, buck­ing, blood up, or spook­ing, tails high, at twigs or leaves on the move.

I trea­sure, still, each pot­hole in the clay their thun­der­ous charge made as they came to my call. Their grace­ful ghosts, wild and tame, leap the five-bar gates of Time be­yond hedge and fence, yet, ears pricked, choose to stay

where I have out­lived them. My herd, they stand, head to tail, tail to head, in a cir­cle around me while I blow into their nos­trils, rhyth­mi­cally

in, out – then scratch their with­ers, crests, rumps. I want them to take car­rots again from my hand;

to pick black­ber­ries del­i­cately from bram­bles. I crave to soak sugar-beet for them in frozen days, to fill their mangers with the sweet­est soft hay. O to be tram­pled upon rather than to stare into the real empti­nesses of this­tle-blown air.

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