1ST PLACE – C.J. ALLEN
Poems to My Horse
Morning again and I’m reading poems to my horse.
He doesn’t react. I say he doesn’t react,
sometimes he nods a little to himself
as if he’s heard this sort of thing before,
then shies at a sudden flurry of broken lights
that is the wind unsettling sunlit leaves.
He is the colour of old suitcases. Sometimes
his ears twitch, but not so much where he hears
poetry; at least so I’ve observed.
He is a great one for the passing time.
He’ll stand and watch it. Not a hint of those
dull smears of meditative panic that
assail the likes of you and me, those fearful
flinches that we can’t disguise. For him,
the time is something he does not require
saving from at all. And there he is,
exactly where I left him, tall and still,
in the watercolour of the autumn morning.
Adjudicator’s comments: What I like most about this poem is the clear picture it creates of the tall, dignified horse, ‘the colour of old suitcases’, standing ‘in the watercolour of the autumn morning’. The suitcases make one think of travel and movement, and there is movement in ‘… the sudden flurry of broken lights’, ‘… the wind unsettling sunlit leaves’; and the human emotional agitation of ‘meditative panic’ and ‘fearful flinches’, but the horse is still, (apart from an occasional twitch of the ears). Unperturbed by everything the speaker of the poem feels and describes, including the poems read to him, and most especially the passing of time with all its implications of death and decay, the horse becomes almost a symbol of eternal endurance rather than another creature just as subject to time as ourselves. There is a recurrent pattern of sound, particularly the ‘aw’ of morning, horse, before, tall, watercolour, and again morning – the first and last word of the poem, I note – which frames and distances it very satisfactorily. – Ruth Fainlight