What the Horses See at Night

When the day-birds have settled
in their creaking trees,
the doors of the forest open
for the flitting
drift of deer
among the bright croziers
of new ferns
and the legible stars;
foxes stream from the earth;
a tawny owl
sweeps the long meadow.
In a slink of river-light,
the mink’s face
is already slippery with yolk,
and the bay’s
tiny islands are drops
of solder
under a drogue moon.
The sea’s a heavy sleeper,
dreaming in and out with a catch
in each breath, and is not disturbed
by that plowt – the first
in a play of herring, a shoal
silvering open
the sheeted black skin of the sea.
Through the starting rain, the moon
skirrs across the sky dragging
torn shreds of cloud behind.
The fox’s call is red
and ribboned
in the snow’s white shadow.
The horses watch the sea climb
and climb and walk
towards them on the hill,
hear the vole
crying under the alder,
our children
breathing slowly in their beds.


from Swithering (Picador, 2006) copyright © Robin Robertson 2006, used by permission of the author and Macmillan Publisher.

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