When Black Water Horses Meet

Why, once in a lifetime, do black water horses meet?

Why do they come slithering out of the peat bogs,
out of the mires, from lakes, ponds, estuaries, crooked bays,
coated in sphagnum and sundew, purple moorgrass, wild angelica,
tails filled with water-mint and bog asphodel, bog bush crickets between their ears,
covered in duck-weed, dashing with water-lilies, ribbeting with frog-song,
clacking with barnacles, bright with sea-stars, fronds of thongweed,
wireweed, dabberlocks, spiral wrack, in their startling manes?

Are they brought together by a herding instinct in their perilous unbones
by which they shift into the ubiquitous shapes of tall dark men
and seductive women with cotton grass in their lapels
or chewed in a strand between their teeth?
Long teeth… you’ll recognise them
by their hooves…

Do they come together because they hate each other so much?
Because they’re jealous of each other’s riders,
of each other’s prey?

Or are they fearful that black water horses are disappearing
like the large heath and brown hairstreak butterflies and marsh fritillary,
the argent and sable and Haworth’s minor moths and the mire pill beetle,
the tiny ‘bog hog’ black as them and the grasshopper warbler?

What do they fear more, the drains and pumps, or our lack of belief?

When we say “there are no black water horses” it seems fine to drain that bog,
to suck the water from that fifteen-mile lake, fill in that pond,
take every shell-fish from that estuary;

we are like vacuum cleaners sucking
at the unfathomable miles of the deep extinguishing
the three-dimensional flowers with their blossoms and ignoring
the rippling pulsations of sea mice and sea cucumbers,

we are making the world 1D and black water horses
do not want paper cut out riders.

They complain that we do not want to be eaten anymore:
we do not want their sharp teeth gnashing our shoulders,
their constant gnawing where fish slide past our ribcages,
their teachings of how to breath underwater
and anaerobically.

The Black One of the Seas,
the Stallion of the Crooked Bay who is just about in charge
(although the colts raise their upper lips at him)
listens to their complaints and rolls his eyes
like billiard balls and flickers
his radar ears

just like he does at every meeting of black water horses,
nods his handsome head and whinnies
absolutely nothing.

Why do they meet, these fading beings, larger than life?

Why do I speak of them?

Kelpies, 1886, pub dom - Copy


5 thoughts on “When Black Water Horses Meet

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