All My Long-Gone Horses & Sonnets Made of Wood
‘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.