From The Roundstone Pony Show
To the Tune Of "Saddle the Pony"
for old Irish flute
The way he taps her white bottom with the whip—Softly, slowly—you just know he loves her.
"That's the girl," he mutters, "that's the girl.Easy, easy and slow now. Easy and slow."
His words falling over and intoHer white ears like ghost whispers.
The Colt and the Poet
His body is a templeWhere all is worked on,Worked over, supple and oiled.
My body is a shedWhere everything is damp,Stiff, cobwebbed and rusting. [End Page 62]
Old Books and Riverbanks
I asked Dan MageeWhat he thoughtPonies smelt of."Piss and grass," he said,
"Though if my mother asked me,I'd say a small bird's nestAfter the eggs have hatchedAnd the birds have flown."
I asked his wife the same question.She said, "Dan's breath afterA plate of grilled kidneys—A slight urine tinge on the tongue."
"Although," she added, "in summerA pony can smell of hay,Wild strawberries,Honey and hedgerows,
Or a crumpled featherbedAbandoned by lovers,Or the feather pillowsWhere their heads lay."
I asked an old womanWho keeps Connemara poniesOut there somewhereAlong the Errislanan Road.
What they smell like?She wordedAnd wondered."Old churches," she said,
"Like the creaky 'Star of the Sea'That faces into the wind at Omey.Go inside," she said,"Sure, it's always open, [End Page 63]
Close your eyes,Breathe in,And it is like you'reStanding beside a pony.
Blessed creatures. Faithful.Sure, didn't Jesus himselfRide one all over the Holy Land.Do you know your Bible at all?"
When her granddaughter,Amelia, joined us, I askedHer what ponies smelt of."Dust," she said, "fairy dust."
Then I asked a small boy.He said, "The men's toiletAfter the big match:Guinness, farts and wet grass."
And me? I think poniesSmell of old books, riverbanks,Bogs, and wool just washedAnd hung out in the wind to dry. [End Page 64]
The Artist on the Bog
for Donald Teskey
For nearly five weeksThe artist has been drawing wildGrasses, turf ridges, walls and ruins—All kinds of abandoned things.
Lark has begun to wonderIf he is ever going home.She has asked the badgerAnd the grey pony about him,
But they just tell herNot to worry. They say,"Think of him as a scarecrow,But without the straw.
He is engrossed in drawingAnd painting the distance.He is not interested in shootingOr capturing a small bird.
He may draw you,But he won't hurt you.Think of him as a fence post.In fact, sit on him." [End Page 65]
Naming the Ponies
Shirt, trousers, braces, boots,And old Ned is dressed.
Then he crosses the roomAnd stands by the window
Where, as always, the seven poniesAre already up and dressed.
He has neverSeen them sleeping.
They are early risersLike larks and hares.
He knows they miss Ruth:Her hands, her voice.
She was an early riser too,Always up before him, with her ponies,
The kettle on the stove,The tea brewing when he came down.
He doesn't dream muchSince Ruth died.
She had a way with ponies.They like him because they loved her.
The last things she gave himWere her names for each of them.
Now, every morningIn mist, rain or sun,
He calls their namesOver the gorse like a prayer. [End Page 66]
Song of the Pony
Pony would love to have sung of the mountain rivers tumbling,And of the old wooden fence-posts that now hold nothing in.I am sure you have come upon them high up in the mountains,Their rusted wire gone but still standing there, a sort of never-the-lessnessThat appeals to a pony almost as much as wild grasses and seaweed.And yes, Pony would love to have sung a hymn to the lake...