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Colour print of the famous picture by Fortunino Matania showing a gunner saying farewell to his dying horse.  The original was painted for the Blue Cross Fund to raise money for the charity during the First World War.       Date: 1916
A Horse’s Word

 

after ‘The Soldier’s Kiss’ by Henry Chappell

 

Only a man! He is more. Shift the gear,

slip the weight from his shoulders, his jaw

stiffening. Saddle beside him, let the smoke clear

as hoofs and bullets thunder. Pause.

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Prone to greener fields, lie

with quivering lips. Do not fail;

a horse’s truth is revealed in faithful eyes.

United, gallop strong through the veils.

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Onward, let him grasp the rein, speed

– heedless of your mutual pains – to safety. The shells

may soften, though the flesh may bleed.

Keep walking, though you both may fall.

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Only a man! No, this is companionship. Kneel

close for comfort. Let him sigh

in human airs. Be his steed, his steel

when he kisses friends goodbye.

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At night, nudge his head to the stars,

show him how the universe unfolds.

We bear so much – breed kindness and resilience, far

beyond the king’s shilling or war-tethered gold.

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© Russell Jones

Picture 10951834, reproduction of a painting by Fortunino Matania, 1916, image copyright Mary Evans

 

 

Russell Jones is an Edinburgh-based writer and editor. He was the UK’s first Pet Poet Laureate, has published five collections of poetry and is deputy editor of Shoreline of Infinity, a science fiction magazine. He is the editor of Where Rockets Burn Through: Contemporary Science Fiction Poems from the UK (Penned in the Margins), co-editor of Umbrellas of Edinburgh: Poetry and Prose Inspired by Scotland’s Capital City (Stirling Publishing) and Multiverse: an international anthology of science fiction poetry (Shoreline of Infinity). Russell writes novels, short stories for children, and has a PhD in Creative Writing from The University of Edinburgh. He enjoys White Russians, Twiglets and karaoke.