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Invisible Horses
You rode by every day on one of your invisible horses
making your way to school or home from school
or wherever.

The invisible horse I liked 
to see you on the most 
was a mare of 16 hands 
with a hide river-brown and dappled white
and shimmering as the Argideen does 

as it canters past 
with the sunlight 
coming down on it in shreds like a tottering mirror
through hollies and yew trees
near Innishannon 
on a morning in winter.

A long and pristine white mane fluttering at you like rapids.
Eyes like eels’ mouths.
Hoofs that clattered tarmacadam, raising mist
like every legendary steed.

Tiny phantoms rose and fell in the steam of your galloping heels.

I remember your crazy mom as well.
Your mom had a want in her 
that was bigger than her.

Your mom was Ophelia withered
and ten times dead.
She kept getting drowned in the depths of the night 
and coming up soaked through in her charity rags
to that neverendingracket of 
swearwords and cries and wheezes and
snorts in the caravan dawn.

Your mother was a voodoo doll.
Everyone she ever met drew 
needles pricked with shame and hate
and stuck them into her.

Your Da was a paralytic and a shapeshifter.
He’d weep with one eye open 
at the counter into bottled stout 
and swear contrition to the barman
as if Georgie Best was on his death-bed
being interviewed by St. Peter.

Next night he’d be a showband 
on a tour that never stopped 
another alcoholic sorcerer 
burning up the dancefloor lino
reshaping himself with the powers of The Ethanol.

He morphed into badly-toupéed Johnny Cash
or creak-hipped Elvis.

Your little brothers and sisters
were skinny and pale and downcast and quiet
and sometimes transparent.

I see them now as changelings on the losing side 
in an immortal war 
dropped in these hostile
at best indifferent dimensions maliciously 
or for concealment.

No wonder I so often spied them trying to flicker out of our cruelty.

I see them too as medieval stragglers, strung-out beggars
going village to village on a rope,
each one of them a suffering bead on a barbed-wire rosary 
that circled their existences,

each in a role like ‘Hunger’, ‘Misery’,
‘Penitence’ and ‘Doom’,
extras in a travelling pageant 
they didn’t care to understand 
didn’t see the point of, 
to which they hadn’t quite committed.

You contradicted. 
You were Love and you were Rage. 
Imagination’s Crazy Faith. 
All tomorrow’s Sustenance and Glory. 
The Undefeated Forward Flow of Hope and All-inclusive Energy.
What was not there but badly wanted, you created and
you were a totem
and a tower
and a Deity
to me.

You used to whoop and lasso 
as brazen and loud as you could 
from up front 
as you all went by together, 
all you brothers and sisters 
on your way to school or from school or wherever

urging the smallest, the last, the wheeziest,
whoever downhearted was falling behind
to get up and ride
as hard as they could
at the oncoming wind,
on one of your herd of invisible horses.