A poem for Thursday

This is my favourite Ted Hughes poem. It's from Birthday Letters. Initially I loved it because of the horse, I guess. I'm such a girly horse-loving cliche like that. But in the end because of the clinging on.


It was all of a piece to you
That your horse, the white calm stallion, Sam,
Decided he'd had enough
And started home at a gallop. I can live
Your incredulity, your certainty
That this was it. You lost your stirrups. He galloped
Straight down the white line of the Barton Road.
You lost your reins, you lost your seat -
It was grab his neck and adore him
Or free-fall. You slewed under his neck,
An upside-down jockey with nothing
Between you and the cataract of macadam,
That horribly hard, swift river,
But the propeller terrors of his front legs
And the clangour of the iron, so far beneath you.

Luck was already there. Did you have a helmet?
How did you cling on? Baby monkey
Using your arms and legs for clinging steel.
What saved you? Maybe your poems
Saved themselves, slung under that plunging neck,
Hammocked in your body over the switchback road.

You saw only blur. And a cyclist's shock-mask,
Fallen, dragging his bicycle over him, protective.
I can feel your bounced and dangling anguish,
Hugging what was left of your steerage.
How did you hand on? You couldn't have done it.
Something in you not you did it for itself.
You clung on, probably nearly unconscious,
Till he walked into his stable. That gallop
Was practice, but not enough, and quite useless.

When i jumped a fence you strangled me
One giddy moment, then fell off,
Flung yourself off and under my feet to trop me
And tripped me and lay dead. Over in a flash.
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