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Catching a Horse
by Barry Powell (from Lobster Telephone No. 30)
I took a walk.
Early blue cool morning and sound of beach waves. Sun reflecting thousand diamond twinkle and surge noise of spray to my right as I strolled mostly naked along the silver sand. Along the spit.
The silver sand half way up my legs from getting them wet and from sand kicking. It's still early and the sun is low, but coming up. It's all big and quivering in haze on an ocean horizon. Already the sky is very blue, that sort of blue near oceans where you can't tell where the sky stops and the water starts, and it's that still also. Still blue morning and I walked.
These events drift across time. This narrative is written in both past and present tenses, because of the paradox of narrative. Why talk in past tense if you're recording something while doing it? But then everything that's done is always in the past. Therefore both. Walking along the sand, and I walked.
I can't remember how long for, or when I started. I feel tired so maybe it was a long time ago. Not really sure why, or where I'm going. This is the truth behind journeys. Surge rhythm of the waves, the seven. The diminishing ocean. Footprints coming out of my distance, and the uncountable million sand grains. I think like this as I stumble on thinking fatigued deep nothings. Ocean blue breakers. Screech of seagull. Surge rhythm.
To my left is the marsh. The marsh was to my left. Mist rising over tussock and salt-reeds. There a crystal early morning web hexagons, spider-made and all rainbow glinting with the sun rising. Among the reeds. And in small cold pools little pond skaters make annular rings as they move about under mist. As I walk along by these things, only some of them are seen by me.
A black flock of duck silhouettes disturbed by something, moves up and out from the marsh and heads out across yellow sun and on over the blue waves.
The marsh isn't getting any smaller and I'm walking out further and further, along the sand, marram grass clumps dotted here and there now. I pass a small dry animal skull in the sand. Up ahead, something is glinting.
I approach the tall shining things that glinted. They were three twelve or so foot tall glassy pale blue translucent crystals. Embedded in the silver sand. Earlier in the morning washed at their bases by the sea but now just damp at the bases. Little salty droplets sitting on smooth surfaces. Vertical surfaces and on them higher up the obelisks I see hundred fragment refection of my tired face and dirty body little windows. This is the sign. The place. Time to turn inland. I look once more into the crystal This is me. Wanderer. Hunter after horses. Looking for the place. I turn towards the marsh and my heart beat increases somewhat so it seems. Sound of ocean land contact continuous behind me and diminishing now as I jump between tussocks and splash through oily pools. Ripping spider-hexagons, jewel rainbows gone until another morning. How hideously poetic. But as I disturbed filthy old scum floating on stagnant pools, where old brown rusty acid lives. The scum sits on my legs like tomato juice in the glass, except not edible. I get scratched on brambles. Then there is a path of built up earth. This is the path of consequences, there are horse marks on it.
Black crows screech and rise, by a grey bone skeleton tree. The path along which I walk winds through the empty quiet marsh, among grey settling mist, the sound of ocean and the blue of sunlight is forgotten here as I head through dampness in land. I pass a shattered crystal, a bit like the obelisks by the coast, but this is all broken fragments, strewn. It's all across the path. There is one standing fragment still, about four or four an' a half feet tall, and leaning It is translucent white, streaked red with blood stains at the top, which is all crumbling shards and splinters. There is a tuft or two of long white damp-matted horse hair, tangled there. A horse had run into the obelisks and shattered them. Only a horse of power, one of the white-runners that I sought, could have done this. This was an omen of importance. I was on the right track, literally.
I tore off some of the hair where it was all bloody and smeared myself with it. Then tied the hair as a band around my forehead. Then I broke off a long shard of crystal, like a knife, from the stump. I scratched myself three times on my right arm with this. Bloods mingling in the misty air. I was prepared. Ready to pass the broken crystal stump and enter what was definitely the realm of the White Runners, the blood horses, those whom I had come after.
I found another skeleton tree (again a crow on it), I let the crow fly off and splashed out across the low wet green, to the tree. Here I stand all sweaty and stained blood, pulling at the dead coppice grey tree, like a bone thing. An ash bone thing among all the grey green. I don't know what time it is now. Pulling forever at the tree dead. I get eventually, four long poles. I snap off the side branches and even them up until each is about twelve feet long. They are however quite light and not over difficult to carry. I walk on. And they become more difficult. Fall and stumble into the wetness, but I keep struggling on.
Ahead is a low dome mound of moss and heather, mist writhes around it, out of the wet. I climb up on to it. Kneel down and think of horses. Then I plant the first stake. Vertical. Then the other three at points of an imaginary triangle out in the marsh, each twenty feet away from the adjacent one, the mound making the point of a diamond out of the marsh triangle. Then I take the shattered crystal knife and make an incision into my side. Dip in my hand and start to wind out my small intestine onto the knife and then onto my arm. When I've got loads of it out, all slippery and creamy, blood and mucous dripping, I sling most of it up onto my shoulder and begin threading it roun' the four stakes, out in the mist, back and fourth, in pain, until I've created a sort of cats cradle tangle out of my entrails.
The trap. The only way to catch Blood Horses.
The trap is still attached to me I crawl up onto the mound and lean against the pole bit of me all long and throbbing up above my head, glinting in wet misty sunlight, I feel the cold and damp of the bits of me that are the trap. Then, as I slowly start to die in the world that I am in, I also start to wait. Spiders of evening making web hexagons hanging from my ileum I sleep.
I wake in sunlight evening to a crow, it tried to land on my duodenum but it gave too much and it flew away.
I keep waiting, throbbing, vomiting blood. Then I hear a distant scream. A non human scream (there are no humans here anyway). There is a concentration of mist. Crows rising. A mist concentration; it is not mist it is splash clouds of droplets, hiding a scream white herd, the white runners, the blood horses, the legendary long mained stallions and mares and fowls, the marsh demons, horses that eat meat.
Ahead of the stampede of white mains and splashes is a small amphibious deer, the horses are hunting. They are hunting it. Me them.They circle the trap, intent on the deer, but they must have smelt my flesh to have come here. I feel cold in my entrails now, and they are all about me. The horses up front down the deer and they all scatter and slow and circle back, kicking it into the water, trampling reeds, and now deer blood among the floating scum. Wild eyed white horses with long sharp teeth, whinny and stamp in the water and tear the brown deer carcass apart. They then turn to me and my trap. But they cannot harm, for I have done the damage already.
They move away at a canter, splash arcs and silver dead grey noise, they circle about, damaging the marsh and bringing up crows everywhere. Over they spin to the horizon, water and wild eyes and white flame hair.
Then they start back. I have them. They head for me and my flesh. Their flaring nostrils smell it. Smell the stomach entrail net of me. They smell it.
I contract. This is like some sort of fuck, or like some sort of giving birth. The steaming mass of wild tooth horses smash into me, me as the trap, they cannot rip the mesenteries, or the tubes of my intestines, but the tall poles fall inwards, there is a crashing and stamping. I scream the horses scream the marsh screams. The trap is sprung. But my entrails tension and snap the poles as they fall, they start coming back to me, like great rubber bands, contracting. I caught the horses and let them go.
I lay as my intestines slide back in. In a pool of blood. They grow back like worms, but they are shorter. As the horse cloud thrashes away across the green misty unknown, away from me one has part of me, my intestine, my trap for it, part of me in it's long wild yellow teeth. A crazy look of loss in it's eyes.The sun goes down as I recover on the mound, fallen poles and silence. And the beginning of the night frog chorus.
Remember this. When one goes into and touches the unknown, it can only fleetingly be caught. Never owned. But you will always be changed by it and change it also.
I caught the horses and they get away. But part of me is out there somewhere, with one of them. And thus they are always with me.
The sun goes down spreading blood light across the marsh, and I am lost and forgotten and mingled with the blood horses.
© Barry Powell 1988