The subject of this poem, tall and bony, member of an obscure religious sect and all his life a lover of horses ... appears here as a near-mythic figure seen through a boy's eyes:


My father’s white uncle became
arthritic and testamental in
lyrical stages. He held cardinal sin
was misuse of horses, then any game

won on the sabbath. A Clydesdale
to him was not bells and sugar or declension
from paddock, but primal extension
of rock and soil. Thundered nail

turned to sacred bolt. And each night
in the stable he would slaver and slave
at cracked hooves, or else save
bowls of porridge for just the right

beast. I remember I lied
to him once, about oats: then I felt
the brand of his loving tongue, the belt
of his own horsey breath. But he died,

when the mechanised tractor came to pass.
Now I think of him neighing to some saint
in a simple heaven or, beyond complaint,
leaning across a fence and munching grass.

from The Touch of Time: New and Selected Poems (Bloodaxe, 2014), © Stewart Conn 2014, used by permission of the author and the publisher.

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