The Fall

1 May 2017

for Ella

I can tell you, when your horse began to slip
she tried to pull you and herself back up.
But once she slid and lost her footing,
you both fell into the law of gravity
and came down hard upon the rain-soaked grass.

And in that moment, under the shockwaves
of a cold calm, I froze then ran with fear
as the freeze-frames reeled out —
you lying, pinned to the ground,
bearing the weight of your fallen mare.

At your side, I looked into the flared
whites of your eyes and calling your name,
watched your body tremble then jolt into a fit.
My heart sunk with a despairing dread,
a silent scream — Not you, not now.

I stayed kneeling, wondering whether
you were holding your breath or trying to breathe.
I scanned for bruising, broken bones, for blood.
I counted the seconds of your oblivion
and in a blind panic, even thought of prayer.

But when your body discharged the last volt
with a kick and you spoke, surfacing to air,
I cupped my hands beneath your head,
spelling out the calm and colour of words.
As I held you on this side of the line that balances

love and loss with life and death, I pictured
your brother slipping by immeasurable degrees
through air and water, and thought of the ceaseless
eye of grief glaring at your mother and father.
By then, it didn’t matter that the stir

and gaze of onlookers had crowded in
or that the spinning blades of a helicopter
throbbed overhead. What mattered was closer
to ground, and that the names of those you called
were there or on their way. Your horse,

limping, pressed her nose through a huddle
of bystanders, and with all the common
naturalness that comes from the animal bond
of love and need, tenderly bent to sniff
at your face, as you lay there in the wet

like a newborn foal. Walking back to the spot
later and seeing the muddy relief of your heel
near the hoof prints that lead toward your own,
I stood weighing up the cost, wondering
if it was luck or misfortune, or whether the law

of averages was simply taking stock of its toll.
I thought of how lucky you were and despite
the risks, remembered your overriding words,
“It’s in my blood,” and how every bone
within you has been marrowed by what it loves.

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