Blessing himself with his apron,
the leather black and tan of a rain-beaten bay,
he pinches a roll-up to his lips and waits
for the mare to be led from the field to the yard,
the smoke slow-turning from his mouth
and the wind twisting his sideburns in its fingers.
She smells him as he passes, woodbine, metal and hoof,
careful not to look her in the eye as he runs his hand
the length of her neck, checking for dust on a lintel.
Folding her back leg with one arm, he leans into her flank
like a man putting his shoulder to a knackered car,
catches the hoof between his knees
as if it’s always just fallen from a table,
cups her fetlock and bends,
a romantic lead dropping to the lips of his lover.
Then the close work begins; cutting moon-sliver clippings,
excavating the arrow head of her frog,
filing at her sole and branding on a shoe
in an apparition of smoke,
three nails gritted between his teeth,
a seamstress pinning the dress of the bride.
Placing his tools in their beds,
he gives her a slap and watches her leave,
awkward in her new shoes, walking on strange ground.
The sound of his steel, biting at her heels.
From Skirrid Hill (Seren, 2005), copyright Owen Sheers 2000, used by permission of the author