The sound of galloping hooves woke me,
then a high lengthy whinny
pulled me out of bed to the window
to see a horse standing there,
his long, black head over my gate.

There was a fine saddle on his back
with no one on it. He stared up,
never taking his eyes off mine,
as if he was mine, and I had forgotten.
I'd have to get dressed and go out to him.

I didn't know what to do with horses,
but I took a towel with me,
and water. He's be hot and sweaty.
Maybe I should lead him down to the sea,
so he could swim for a few minutes.

As I towelled his neck, he neighed
and I smelled rescue remedy on his breath,
a smell I knew far too well.
Who'd given him that? Who'd sent
him here, and for what reason?

Was I, who'd never been on a horse,
supposed to climb in to that saddle,
and let him take me where he would?
It was too cold out here to think.
I needed a strong black coffee.

I couldn't just leave the horse, though.
I wanted to take him into the house
but he was too big. Besides,
what would he do if he got in -
throw himself down on the sofa?

I tried to slink off up the steps
but his big eyes, as I turned round,
made me feel like a torturer,
so I got my scarf and leather jacket,
locked the door and got on the horse.

Immediately, he swung away,
trotting to begin with, then increasing
to a slowish gallop. I clung on,
eyes closed, clutching the horse's neck,
as his hooves rang on the road to Aldeburgh.

'Hooves' from A Smell of Fish (Cape, 2000), © Matthew Sweeney, 2000, used by permission of the author and The Random House Group Ltd.

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3Last Supper

4A Round House

5Imagined Arrival

6The Servant

7The Ideal Home

8A Crow's Cremation


10Divers at the Laurentic

11A Couple Waiting

12The Shadow Home

13Pink Milk

14Her Song



17The Desert


19Donkey Hoof

20The House


22The Hat

23The Compromise

24An End

25The Butcher


27A Smell of Fish


29The Summons


31The UFO

32In the Dust


34The Sweatmark

35The Snowy Owl

36The Hunger Artist at Home

37The Snake


39Black Moon

40In the Garden

41The Glass Chess Set

42The Blue Hammock

43Fish and Chips