Artwork > Writing

Ode To Landscape Painting

In the long summer evenings
I go to a field to paint.
Bells jingle around five or six,
as the cows arrive. My cue to leave.

Two horses graze nearby, one brown and one black.
Sometimes they urinate.
I watch the horses carefully.
I paint my painting.

Suddenly in front of me there is a horse,
and its eyes are dark and wild.

I back away, my palette in one hand,
my picture in the other, talking to the horse
patiently and kindly.

The horse licks my painting and leaves swirly ridges in it.
The horse licks my palette until it is clean.

It eats half a tube of yellow ochre
and an expensive tube of cadmium red (light).
Then it goes to chew some grass.

The light fades from the sky.
I dab my picture and smooth it.
I turn it upside down and look at it.
It is ruined.

I discuss my horse problem
with sympathetic friends.
They tell me to shout and hit it sharply on the nose
with a rolled-up newspaper.

I go to a life-drawing class. The teacher paints horses.
“They are so calming to be with”, says a student.
“Yes”, the teacher replies, “I do so agree with you.”

I go back to check on the horse. It is fine
and chews my paintbrushes,
snapping a few and indenting others
with its powerful horse teeth.

Time passes. I go another afternoon.
The black horse is standing in a glade of trees.
Looking at me, it neighs and its companion
in a nearby field gives an answering whinny.

The black horse stands there for a long time.
Perhaps it has come to understand I am an artist.

Then the horse follows me round the field.
Shouting at it doesn't help.
Families on their walks, seeing us,
laugh happily.

That winter my friend makes me a card –
a horse and a painter in white silhouette,
bright colour on the palette and the horse's mouth.

I love it. My mum borrows the card
to show someone and loses it.

Mike And The Horses