(Anthony Lawrence)

The Brindle Horses

The brindle horses have been put out to pasture wearing their golden plumes. In certain light they appear as muscled apparitions out of a pop-up book for those who love equine folklore with a deviant edge. This light, for example. Over there, by the entrance to an indoor climbing wall with its colour-coded resin finger holds, two brindle horses, their flanks lathered white from galloping in heat. One kneels like a trick pony in a pink spotlight, the other bites the hand of a climber who has offered her sugar. Both horses will die before morning and a climber will fall seven times the length of her hair. A famous brindle horse can be found in a ballad composed by a retired rodeo clown who lost an eye in a fight over the etymology of the word sprawl. A climber wearing nothing but a leather horse mask will be arrested when she comes down from the summit of a decommissioned electricity tower. The word stirrup means climbing rope.


No Clydesdales with indigo plumage slow-stepping an open carriage and coffin down a hill at dusk. No long, formal procession, flare light pooling on the shoulders of mourners. Just a chapel off a city motorway where a plain pinewood box lies on a white sheet draped over a trolley. Two people in attendance. A man in a grey suit at a lectern, speaking softly. In the front row a woman wearing a hat like a sleeping moorhen. A truck changes gears in the distance. The man stops talking and the woman stands as the coffin moves through a curtain into the wall. Outside, the man shakes her hand. I’m at a loss for your sorrow, he says. A white butterfly settles on his lapel. The man looks over the woman’s shoulder at a lizard sunning itself on the lawn. The woman looks into the man’s face. Exhaustion. Acceptance. A car horn drones and dies. When the lizard moves the man turns and walks away, shadows from concrete arches folding over his back. The woman watches him go, trying to remember what it was she had been meaning to do, before death intervened.


On the left side of my brain it was raining soft toys: pandas, tigers, cockatoos and Irish wolf hounds were bouncing off rooves into the red dirt of Aputula in the Northern Territory. On the right, a hard rain of numerical expressions and flood-protection fine-print were blistering the surface of a lake. I was trying to calculate savings from the solar panels I’d installed, but toys were coming to rest in the streets of a remote desert community, and trout were rising to ring the surface of a time when we were happy, our pillow talk marking the end of a storm, with dripping water a refrain we used to find our way back to sleep.


Anthony Lawrence has published sixteen books of poems, the most recent being Headwaters (Pitt Street Poetry, 2016), which won the 2017 Prime Ministers Award for Poetry. He teaches Writing Poetry and Creative Writing at Griffith University, Queensland, and lives on Moreton Bay.