Arts 24 June 2021

Beasts of Burden

A poem by Robert Graham, posted with permission of the author, cited from his book “Before the Yes” (Friesen Press, 2021) distributed through Amazon Books.

From the author: 
“Long story short. Originally from Wishaw, I’ve lived in Canada for 50+ years. Growing up, my grandpa delivered Irn Bru for Barr’s with a wagon pulled by two Clydesdales, Tony & Tommy. I used to go with him on his deliveries and help brush them down at the end of the shift. I am a retired university professor now and have been publishing poetry for decades. I have a new book out and in one of the poems called Beasts of Burden I try to recreate something of the wonder a small child feels being close to these huge but gentle animals. A friend from Ontario who visited your exhibition told me of it and said this poem of mine would fit right in to the ethos of the exhibit.”

Beasts of Burden

In Memoriam Tony and Tommy

Two gigantic beasts, Clydesdales,

twenty-one hands, harnessed to a loaded cart,

shake their morning manes in the bottle plant yard.

Unbridled power yet docile in the traces,

weather-worn reins mere gossamer threads

in their cloth-capped driver’s hands,

man and beasts an indentured fraternity.

Any day a child might offer a trembling apple

on a wary palm, watch it plucked cleanly away

in the velvet nibble of improbably gentle lips.

Their passage through the streets is marked

by soft cannonballs of dung; hairy fetlocks

dance with each slow-measured stride.

All day till dusk a town of eyes follows their trail,

every eye a witness to these mythic shapes,

close enough to touch, unreal as Bucephalus.

They halt clattering at a winking traffic light.

They wait as they always wait in the timeless

bubble of a fated purpose, in thrall to the whistle,

the tickle-slaps that stir their tiring haunches.

In plumes of breath, yellow auras in the streetlights,

this jangling caravan, heads down, heads for home.


                                                          Robert Graham

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