This poem is taken from my recent collection, Paper Patterns (Lapwing 2012). I wrote it as a response to seeing the Bayeux Tapestrey, when I was on Penelope Shuttle’s course in Normandy in 2011. The falling horses in the battle, ambushed and falling into a pit, in contorted shapes, reminded me of The Grand National and the horses who are killed in that race every year.
Each steed is different, needle-drawn,
couched in muted shades, their noble heads
shackled with bridles, chain-stitched threads.
On cotton track, they canter like horses at races
until they come to Saxon ‘Beecher’s Brook’,
when, pulled up short, they tumble to the ground,
heads down, rears up: colliding, knotting, twisting,
while needlewomen sew each snort and whinny,
catching the details of their falling in unlikely
curves. The dying horses claim their place
in history, through this tapestry, as though
their hoof beats rang through yards of cloth.