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 B

Book: The Talking Horse and the Sad Girl and the Village Under the Sea by Mark Haddon Read Free Book Online
Authors: Mark Haddon
times, one notch
for every cow left in the pound,
then split, the cowman and the poundman
taking half each, so that when
the cowman comes to claim his stock
six cows are led out from the pound
though neither of the men can count.
    Connemara, 1610:
A cowman spreads his hands and watches
as a priest names all his fingers.
He starts to count potatoes, hens,
the steps across his single field
whose blades the Lord alone can sum.
    Then pausing at the gate one night
he thinks of seven. Not trees. Not dogs.
Just seven. Like The Plough
before God put the stars in.

The Model Village
    Today an old man had a stroke
and crushed the signal box.
You can’t ignore that kind of thing.
    But on the whole
I try to see the visitors
as clouds or hills.
    I am an old man
and I have learnt my lesson.
Only small things matter.
    But the young are different.
They hear the talk of Birmingham
and Weston-super-Mare
    and listen to the songs
of love and loss
on picnic radios
    and dream of slipping
through the ticket office
after dark
    in search of telephones
and discotheques
and Chinese restaurants,
    a world where games of football
can be won
and lost,
    where roads run to the ocean
and the ocean runs
    They will understand in time.
Sit still for long enough
and everything will come to you.
    We got a helicopter last year,
strung on fishing line
above the plastic lake.
    This year we got our first
black residents.
(The Pattersons were overpainted.)
    But the cows still graze,
the brass band still plays
Hearts of Oak,
    the town clock
still reads
ten to two.
    And when the night comes down
I sit beneath the awning
of the hardware store
    and watch the universe contract
to thirty homes, a loop of railway
and fifty billion stars.

New Year’s Day
    I walk on powdered
shell for three miles
to the spur’s blunt head
where, each year,
something of the ocean
slows and falls
and turns into a yard of land,
and something of the emptiness
we spin through
silts and settles
so that we can walk
a little further
out into the fog.

Average Fool
Odes 1:6
    The poet Varius can celebrate
your victories in high-flown verse.
Your bravery. The deeds done
by daring forces under your command.
By sea. On horseback.
    I never write about that kind of thing, Agrippa;
grand themes like the black anger
of Achilles who refused to back down,
the homicidal family of Pelops
or the voyages of shifty Ulysses.
    Poetic honor and my muse,
whose only weapon is the peaceful lyre,
won’t let me blunt the praise
of either Caesar or yourself
with my ineptitude.
    Who, in any case, could find the words
for Mars dressed in his steel tunic,
Meriones black with Trojan dust,
or Diomedes who teamed up with Athena
and became an equal of the gods?
    Unscarred by love myself,
I write of banquets, and of wars
where girls stab young men
with their fingernails. Or if a little scarred,
then no more than the average fool.

    They lie discarded in the long grass
between the lighthouse and the kyle,
a yard of snipped-off wire
knotted round their necks.
    At one end a white-washed room,
the fog of Woodbines, a terrier
and the fastness of the Norwegian Sea
running in a mildewed frame.
    At the other, tanning salons,
the Winter of Discontent, banana fritters
Saturday Night Fever.
    Between them, humming in the cable,
buried under gales and static,
the lonely birthday greetings, requests
for Tunnock’s teacakes and a claw hammer,
the bump and crackle of a coal fire,
the final maydays and the silence after.

    You rarely hear the prologue—
where ants are marching from the window
to the crib, each one carrying
a grain of wheat to feed the infant king,
    the meaning of the story still unwrapped,
the picture fresh as water in a clay jug
or a hot loaf not yet frozen solid
by the king’s greed.

Thunderbirds are Go
    The island of the billionaire philanthropist
was made of plastic and his wonderful machines
were only toys. True, there were moments
    when the colors brightened as we cut away
to focus on

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