Staccato Waltz

She was not what you would call graceful
But she ate the ground.
I am not what you would call a natural horseman.
There are even those that would put it more strongly
And say that horses could naturally sense
My lack of talent in that direction —
That they treated me with disdain.

I suppose horses prefer to carry those blessed
With the grace of a natural seat in the saddle
To rise and fall with a rhythm that complemented
The beat of the passing moment.

Gypsy was different in that we completed
A cycle together. It started on the day we met.
She caught my eye as I strode towards her.

My friends who owned the farm had her saddled
For me, bridled and alert her stance relaxed.
They somehow realised that here was a horse
Who would compensate for my shortcomings
So that together we made a whole
Somewhat more than its parts
In my case at least.

So that day began — an exercise which grew
Into a regular pattern. Gypsy Wanderer
And her human counterpart.
Or in my imagination that is how it was.
Most days were sunny, dappled by the passing trees
As we cantered through the early morning
To enjoy the coming of the day.
I looked forward to our times together
Like a tonic to restore my contact with mother earth
And all things living. The sense of movement
Carrying me without effort up into the hills
Where the deep greens and sloping valleys
Seduced me with the lushness of their being.
So it went for a few fleeting years as we enjoyed
An expectation, a routine companionship that grew
Into habit that stretched out before us.

Then as all things do, it came to an end, interrupted
By the passing needs of life and home.
Family and friends took their toll on my time.
Seasons chased each other across the years.
In the back of my mind there was an anticipation
That one day soon I would return to Gypsy
And together we would feel the freedom of the wind.

What I didn’t realise was that winter was coming
Coming faster than I could have known.
It was bleak, I arrived home late,
Determined that the next day
I would visit my wandering lady
To once more caress her flank as
We ventured out into the early dawn.

It was a miserable night, destroyed by cold, wind and rain.
I changed my clothes and began to warm some life
Back into my weary bones — when the phone rang.
I don’t know why, but the cold crept back inside me
With the voice of my friend as if I knew without the words
What was coming.
It was Gypsy, he told me, she had taken a fall.
It had inflamed an old wound and that had been her end.
No more could she sail with the west wind,
She was an old horse in pain.
They had no choice but to put her down.
In the moment of his telling we both realised
I had lost something which could not return again.
I wished I had been there to ease her on her journey
But it was not to be, Gypsy my old companion
Was eager to be on her way and this time
Could not wait for me or any man.

That weekend the weather became kinder
More cheerful, clear as day.
So I made the pilgrimage to visit with my friend.
That afternoon I did not ride but walked the bush paths
My pace slower more given to contemplation,
Enjoying the comfort of memory,
Feeling her beneath me once more.
Such ease of comfort and trust
Is not something we often find.
The steady gait, the even step
Neck stretched out in flight
Legs thrusting forward breath panting
Faint lathering of sweat.

Then at the top of the break between two ridges
We stop as if of one accord.
Ears forward, eyes alert, she watches shadows
Caught blood red in the setting sun.
We sit relaxed drinking it all in
Unmoving, as if to do so would disturb the moment.

Sometimes in my dreams
She finds me still and again we ride
My Gypsy Wanderer takes me in the night
As we gather up the wind between us.
I feel the reins and the rhythm of her movement
As she turns her head for home.

Lean flanks take us up the valley
Through the shadow of the trees
Towards the lights that beckon.

But before she makes the final passage
She slows and gives her head a shake
As if to say
Her place of rest is not yet mine to take.
And time fractures between us
An end to dreaming as in my bed I wake —
The image of a fantasy,
That my mind in memory does make.

For a moment I capture her
Crisp and gentle in the morning air
Before in a flash she darts away
All energy
Without a care, a dream in disarray.
By John Hall


Copyright – John Hall 5/3/02