We met at the beach,
the whole family.
We stayed inside all day.
We did collage
with friends and hangers-on.
There was a knock at the door.
It was the lady from the end house.
She’d brought her horse.
It was low tide.
‘You can get right around and it should be fine
with a horse,’ I said, ‘I’ve done it thousands
‘The rocks are quite big on this side.’
I had to jump from one to the next
as the sea rushed in between them.
‘And you have to be careful
when you go round the point,’ I said,
‘but at low tide it should be fine.’
I looked over the lady’s shoulder
at the horse.
I thought of its hooves sliding off the top
of the flat rocks and getting stuck.
I imagined the horse struggling and deep cuts
on its legs and flanks.
They would have to get the man with the gun
from the bay at the far end.
He would have to shoot the horse.
I remembered how he’d shown off his gun
when we had an escaped prisoner
and the whole bay was placed on alert.
I walked beside the car with the loud-hailer.
‘THE MAN IS DANGEROUS.
DO NOT MAKE ANY ATTEMPT
TO APPROACH OR TALK TO HIM,’
The man with the gun came out and said,
I’ll approach him all right.
I’ll take care of him with this!’
He raised the gun above his head
in a premature sign of victory.
It had a leather strap.
The strap waved.
A wind had come up.
It blew in off the sea.
The lady from the end house
stood waiting at the door,
the reins in her hand.
She was looking at me distrustfully,
as if I was not the one she’d come to see at all,
as if she hadn’t asked for my advice
and didn’t appreciate me giving it.
At last she turned to go,
leading the horse by the reins.
It was a sad old nag.
Back inside there were the shadows
of all the friends and hangers-on.
Black figures stood in doorways,
lay on sofas and daybeds
and propped up on cushions
sat on the floor.
It took time for my eyes to readjust
from the brightness of the light outside.
I was feeling nervous.
Soon I’d be leaving.
This evening I had a train to catch,
back into the city.