The Talking Horse and the Sad Girl and the Village Under the Sea

The Talking Horse and the Sad Girl and the Village Under the Sea by Mark Haddon Read Free Book Online Page A

Book: The Talking Horse and the Sad Girl and the Village Under the Sea by Mark Haddon Read Free Book Online
Authors: Mark Haddon
them
paired in bumper cars
or spellbound by cartoons
    and Rugby League
on televisions stacked
in storefront windows.
    They smell of soap
and dentists’ hands
and rustle when they move.
    Some go native,
as they always do,
stung by that long view
    through the shilling telescope
or by the soft eyes
of the boy who rents the pedalos.
    They move into cheap lodgings
with a single suitcase
and experiment with fashionable clothes.
    Later, out of season,
we will recognize them,
frying breaded cod
    or punching ferry tickets,
marked out
by the chapel-silence
    which surrounds them still,
and by the way they stoop
to talk to children.
    They are not mourned,
for come October,
when the ghost train shuts down
    and the colored bulbs along the pier
are packed away,
their places will be filled
    by the girls we teased in school
who yearned for love
and dreamed of reaching up
    to take the teacher’s hand
and being lifted from the flesh
in which they’d never felt at home,
    or walking, as they walk now, up the harsh rake of the lanes, past burger bars and butchers,
    past the Grand Hotel,
the Smuggler’s Haven
and the Wall of China,
    past the car park and the campsite,
past the Esso station
and the padlocked school
    then through the granite arch
and over moonlit
geometric lawns
    into the silence
of a clean white room
out of the swing of the sea.

Rescued
    Horace
Odes 1:5
    Which under-muscled, over-perfumed boy
is groping you on roses in your love-nest,
Pyrrha? Who’s inspired you to wash and cut
your honey-colored hair like this?
    God knows how many times he’ll curse
the bad luck that made him love you,
and be flabbergasted by the force tens
blackening your little sea.
    The idiot. He drinks your sunshine down
and thinks the wind will never change.
Those miserable men. You dazzle them
but no one ever ties up in your harbor.
    As for me, you can read my story
on the temple wall: just another rescued
sailor who has offered up his sodden boots
to the great god of the sea.

1998
    Come, Muse, let us sing of Velcro,
teabags and the Tetrapak.
For these too are works of nature,
as deserving of our praise
    as dawn light on the Half-Dome,
hare tracks in overnight snow
or a fine French derailleur,
and will join the astrolabe
    and toasting fork in old films
and stand on plastic trivets in museums,
giving off that low hum
of the long dead.

The Seventh Circle
    Another werewolf night, the trees spastic
with wind and the dogs uneasy on their chains.
Three trolls wrestle with a bloody scrap
that will not die, the taverns roar and glitter
on the greasy quay and the Scissorman
chases the dragon down those little tracks
that promise daybreak by the sea, pistachio
cakes and minarets but curve, always,
back to that long night in the nursery.
    The clock strikes twelve, and on the dirt road
where the shanties thin to marsh grass and burnt cars,
the music stops and tonight’s crocodile
of lost children melt into the dark.
They are ours now. You cannot touch them.
    They will see you in bad dreams.
The smoke of October bonfires, a single
gunshot hurling rooks into a white sky
and you, at the French windows, ogling
the gardener’s boy while your niece makes a pig’s ear
of a Chopin Polonaise and the servants
bitch about you in the scullery.
    But you will see them from the evening train,
raging in burned-out lots and under bridges.
You will see them in the corridors
of hospitals. You will see them hover
on the dark that pools in hotel rooms
and lying under blankets on the tarmac of the other carriageway, the broken glass
    like snow and the lights flashing
like a black Christmas. You will see them
standing at your shoulder in the mirror.
    They will not come back. The road is hard
and no one wants to listen to the stories
they will have to tell. But when the steel market
crashes and the orchard is paved over
and the bailiff’s men are playing blackjack
on the stairs they will be waiting for you
at the bottom of the frozen lake.

A Tally Stick
    The bark is notched six

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