Martin Reed


A brass plate announces ownership
by celebrity, syndicate or corporation,
everything done to increase the chances,
prestige and prizes to be won.
They are commodified, timetabled,
captive to vet, dietician,
groom and farrier, bred by selections
of shrewd, tight-lipped men.

Yet this morning they are none of this,
steam drifting off them after their run,
necks arching half-doors, fancied and unfancied,
a stamp or whinny from down the line.
They scuff up half-remembered images:
hieroglyphs and proud Persian statues
greeting the day with sculptured stillness.
Breathe hot air into their nostrils,
touch a flank’s immensity,
pulsing power, shiver of muscle
in a chestnut hide that prickles the palm.

Long ago they made a bargain,
their speed, as if that was all they had to give,
for pampered hours of contemplation
and wisdom set in a deep brown eye,
a mind roaming plains and old horizons.
Their gallop pounds, kicks up the sod
and charges past us, the calm of their mystery
always beyond us, wholly and only themselves
in spite of all men load on them.
They stand apart from tweedy owners
who beam with pride in the winner’s enclosure.

Martin Reed was born in Somerset and now lives in Malvern, Worcestershire. He has a HappenStance collection in print called The Two-Coat Man and has published poems in many contemporary magazines. He is a past winner of the National Poetry Competition.