Two Poems

Robin Robertson

What the Horses See at Night

When the day-birds have settled
in their creaking trees,
the doors of the forest open
for the flitting
drift of deer
among the bright croziers
of new ferns and the legible stars;
foxes stream from the earth;
a tawny owl
frisks the long meadow.
In a slink of river-light,
the mink’s face
is already slippery with yolk,
and the bay’s
tiny islands are drops
of solder
under a drogue moon.
The sea’s a heavy sleeper,
dreaming in and out with a catch
in each breath, and is not disturbed
by that plowt – the first
in a play of herring, a shoal
silvering open
the sheeted black skin of the sea.
Through the starting rain, the moon
skirrs across the sky dragging
torn shreds of cloud behind.
The fox’s call is red
and ribboned
in the snow’s white shadow.
The horses watch the sea climb
and climb and walk
towards them on the hill,
hear the vole
crying under the alder,
our children
breathing slowly in their beds.

Siesta

after Montale
You lie through midday in the shade
of a sun-baked garden wall, pale,
absorbed by the crackle of blackbirds, the rustle
of snakes in the dry sticks and thorns;

you try to decipher the red lines of ants that scrawl
through the climbing plants, down through the ruts
of the scorched ground, to break and braid
and break again over the tops of their little mounds;

you might see, through the leaves, the distant pulse
of the sea, the distinct green scales of the waves,
while the churning of cicadas rises,
chiding and fricative, up from the empty heights.

And then you will walk, sun-blinded,
into the slow and bitter understanding
that all this life and all its heart-sick wonder
is just the following of a wall
ridged with bright shards of broken glass.