The sound of galloping hooves woke me,
then a high lengthy whinny
pulled me out of bed to the window
to see a horse standing there,
his long, black head over my gate.

There was a fine saddle on his back
with no one on it. He stared up,
never taking his eyes off mine,
as if he was mine, and I had forgotten.
I’d have to get dressed and go out to him.

I didn’t know what to do with horses,
but I took a towel with me,
and water. He’s be hot and sweaty.
Maybe I should lead him down to the sea,
so he could swim for a few minutes.

As I towelled his neck, he neighed
and I smelled rescue remedy on his breath,
a smell I knew far too well.
Who’d given him that? Who’d sent
him here, and for what reason?

Was I, who’d never been on a horse,
supposed to climb in to that saddle,
and let him take me where he would?
It was too cold out here to think.
I needed a strong black coffee.

I couldn’t just leave the horse, though.
I wanted to take him into the house
but he was too big. Besides,
what would he do if he got in –
throw himself down on the sofa?

I tried to slink off up the steps
but his big eyes, as I turned round,
made me feel like a torturer,
so I got my scarf and leather jacket,
locked the door and got on the horse.

Immediately, he swung away,
trotting to begin with, then increasing
to a slowish gallop. I clung on,
eyes closed, clutching the horse’s neck,
as his hooves rang on the road to Aldeburgh.

from A Smell of Fish (Cape, 2000), © Matthew Sweeney, 2000, used by permission of the author and The Random House Group Ltd.

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