My drum sings out.
Sometimes she is just a drum.
Sometimes she is a chestnut mare.
Sometimes she is a bridge to the Otherworld,
her skin torn and flapping on the wooden frame.
Sometime a dead horse was skinned, then her skin
was halved, quartered, divided like the skin
of the Great Mare at the Horse Feast.
I’m sure I got her tough strong resilient shoulder.
Oh Epona how many times have you died?
Oh Epona how many times have you returned to life
as we stretched your skin over a new skeleton
and fastened it tight with new sinews?
Oh Epona how many times have we reawakened
your pulse with a draft of incense and a first steady beat?
Did you always know your skin would sing like your birds?
Did you know how many people you would carry
on your back or across your bridge
to the Otherworld?
The blood moon:
an apple in a goddess’ eye
drops and I think of the windfall
crisp autumn mornings when we released
the horses slipping from their halters
twisting away in leaps and bucks
with piquant glint-eyed excitement
to the trees where they’d drop their heads
whuffle up the crispy moons of green and red.
Some days before we turned them out
we whispered to them “apples”
and they knew exactly what we meant…
The blood moon has passed.
The horses are staying out late this year.
Yet the sun has gone down on my stable-yard:
baling freshly-cut hay, stacking barns
with hard-shouldered labour,
stuffing stretching nets
for hungry mouths.
As I cut the meadow and gather orchard fruits
I reminisce about the rural life that didn’t last.
When the horses are tied behind bar and bolt
tugging at hay with meadow-sweet muzzles
I will feed them apple-moons
from my open palm.