The War Horse

This dry night, nothing unusual    

About the clip, clop, casual 


Iron of his shoes as he stamps death 

Like a mint on the innocent coinage of earth. 


I lift the window, watch the ambling feather 

Of hock and fetlock, loosed from its daily tether 


In the tinker camp on the Enniskerry Road,    

Pass, his breath hissing, his snuffling head 


Down. He is gone. No great harm is done.    

Only a leaf of our laurel hedge is torn— 


Of distant interest like a maimed limb,    

Only a rose which now will never climb 


The stone of our house, expendable, a mere    

Line of defence against him, a volunteer 


You might say, only a crocus, its bulbous head    

Blown from growth, one of the screamless dead. 


But we, we are safe, our unformed fear 

Of fierce commitment gone; why should we care 


If a rose, a hedge, a crocus are uprooted    

Like corpses, remote, crushed, mutilated? 


He stumbles on like a rumour of war, huge    

Threatening. Neighbours use the subterfuge 


Of curtains. He stumbles down our short street    

Thankfully passing us. I pause, wait, 


Then to breathe relief lean on the sill    

And for a second only my blood is still 


With atavism. That rose he smashed frays    

Ribboned across our hedge, recalling days 


Of burned countryside, illicit braid: 

A cause ruined before, a world betrayed. 

In the BBC 100 collection, recording used by permission of the BBC - from 'The War Horse' from New Selected Poems (Carcanet, 2013) copyright Eavan Boland, 2013. Reproduced by kind permission of Carcanet Press, Manchester.

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