Mayakovsky’s kindness to horses
It sounded like the hooves were singing:
it must have been the street that skidded!
Perhaps the street tripped
on the horse: anyway, the poor horse
scooted along the street
like a coffin scooting into the fire.
Nobody had any reason to be out anyway,
except to show off their flares
at the horse,
oh come and stare!
But I was not going to join in this choir,
and saw the horse’s eyes...
The street had fallen over and nobody had noticed
but the horse: I saw large drops
were rolling down its face
in its hair.
Oh horse, don’t, listen, horse:
you’re really no worse than they are!
We are all of us horses, to some extent! Horse?
Perhaps it didn’t think it needed a nurse
perhaps my thought seemed trite to the horse,
at anyrate, up it got with a jerk, and a flick
of its tail, and cheerfully returned
and stood in its stall,
as if really it felt like a colt,
and that life was worth living,
Bella Akhmadulina’s motor-scooter
It is your scooter I am looking at,
your scooter I would follow
from traffic light to traffic light,
café to café,
loitering with intent
those flying wheels, that red paint!
I am a poet, I haven’t even got a cell-phone.
I follow your scooter with my eyes
like a little daughter,
wanting to touch.
I even envy your shiny raincoat.
I feel like a snail, my poetry around me
like a dirty shell.
Still the future will reach us both
just as soon, here it comes
bearing down on us
with metal feet.
At least when the future has squashed me
onto the tarmac of today
I will leave behind me
a silver trail.
It’s not a dumb game, you’re dumb
at it. Though it doesn’t help
to say that, and you’re getting
better. This is probably
the only day we’ll ever get
to play like this, you realise,
this is Wellington. We
don’t have a net, we’re just
counting volleys, pretty
good to hit three, then
we hit five, then our world
record of seven. We’re
going for eight,
even if the clothesline
gets in the way, even if
that lunge back has me falling
backwards over the wall
that came down in the storm,
into the compost, trying to get up
in time for your next shot,
stepping further back
down the bank, stumbling
over the blackberry vine,
feeling for the concrete steps
buried somewhere under the grass,
because we’ve got to beat
eleven now, and although
it is getting dark, there is still
the thwack of something
on the strings I’ve hit,
and I can hear someone
stumbling down the bank
after me, hitting
at me, and who
could it be except
I’m dreaming my throat is a tunnel,
held up by wooden posts
here and there, under which
lie street kids in sleeping bags,
some of them surely friends of mine
I haven’t seen for some time –
they blink at the torches
shining into their eyes.
Can I pretend not to see them?
Sometimes it is easier
just to wake up –
my throat still hurts
but beside me, Simon is laughing
at something in his sleep.
As I stand there biting my nails
I can feel God aiming at my neck
like Xeno’s arrow.
I’m not unprepared
for His thirst,
I’ve sprinkled a little salt
in the dip just over
and halved a lime.
And if this time
you get there first,
I’ll still feel
God’s Almighty incipience
on my neck
like a thumb.