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      Martin French — 'Blood Horse'

Shut my eyes and everything is under snow. A fine crisp snow has just fallen behind my eyes. A fug. The street is quiet, buried beneath about four inches; the cars, bulbous white, even snow on the exhaust pipes and towballs; the roofs, the stairs to the front doors, the railings; the tree branches shouldering their ice, like the inverse of the barely blue shadows on the snow underneath. Little mounds on the tops of pickets in the fences; even a delicate pile on the gate latch and each hinge. And a dusting like castor sugar on the back and rump of the Blood Horse as it shuffles down the road. Each step muffled, and crunching through the layer of ice, steam coming from its nostrils, the dew of breath becoming ice on the hairs of its muzzle, ice on its eyelashes also. Mane wet. Scrunch scrunch, scrunch scrunch. Cold cold heartbeat.

In the bedroom, even the thighs have snow. Ah, even the pubic bone, hip bones; even the lips and nose have their little drifts of snow. Even the flames in the fireplace have snow. Snow ridges down the backs of each of her fingers. Her skin has goosebumps. The hair on her legs and arms standing up. Such sleep.

Something needs to be said about the geometry: the square penis, the circle nipples and mouths and eyes and bellybuttons, the triangle vagina. Something Pythagorean in it all; all the rhythms revealed in the hard lines. All of the hard lines revealed in the percussion; in the thumping upon the lectern of the fist, the bangings of hands on benches (hear hear), the stomping of boots down cobbled streets; the drumming of drums. Machine guns have their rhythm too, as do the hearts of men and history. All of it covered with snow.

If you listen carefully, in the silence, you can hear the silent rhythm of the falling snow. Like feathers falling on water—entirely geometric. As silent as shapes. The wind smooths it all out; brushes over any cracks; subdues. Where she lies sleeping, others have lain. They have been just as beautiful, and just as dumb. The only language she understands is of tongues—licking, licking—like the snowbound flames confined in the grate. There is a faint hissing in the coals that have fallen through. A serpentine reminder. Or a spear (a pick in this instance). Or a shepherd's crook. Or a lantern swinging—flame guttering. Her belly rises and falls. Rythmically.

There is so much to be said here. Nothing to be said after all. I was walking my brother's dog, a border collie, flinging a stick for fetch. Getting it back and teasing. The dog would jump and snap at the stick. Clomp. And swinging it around and the jog dumping dislexically. Ole. OLE. Then distracted and the bitch jumps and snaps and misses the stick and bites a chunk out of my forearm. That bite ripped away skin and meat and it was just a petty snap at a stick. But it hurt. Bruising deeply. Is feeling pain better than not?

I shall sleep on it and see if the horse visits me there. See if I can't ride that horse. Can't rope and saddle and rough-ride (and muzzle, don't forget muzzle) that bastard. There's no saying sorry here.

So last night I was dreaming about Sean. Bloody Sean again. And we were in some hostel detox place. Him and a bunch of other junkies. And someone else paid him fifty owed dollars and he scabbed four dollars fifty off another few guys and needs fifty cents more for a hit, so I give him fifty cents. "Yah, thanks mate. You're a legend. Now can ya get me outa here?" So I'm walking with him, talking about his racist father, asking him about Sly Stone and so on, and we end up on the roof where he scores a hit for fifty five dollars (is that cheap? it was a dream.) and shoots it up. He's looking pretty good but I wonder if he's dead.

Afterwhich we're back inside and some jerkoff supervisor comes up to see who Sean's visitor is. I'm apparently in trouble as I've signed a form to take responsibility for Sean and he's under my supervision and I'm supposed to prevent him buying the shit, and I say, "I only gave him fifty cents," and the guy gets really aggressive. All the other junkies start looking pretty angry (Sean's out of the picture, he's better now, rolling a rolly, preoccupied, thinking about work). So I'm backing away from these aggressive bastards, and some of them gave Sean more money than I did. What would Jesus have done? Could he ride? And above me is a mesh mezzanine like in a prison, and the angry fucks above me start stomping on the steel. Then the first hot drops of piss splatter on my head. I cower, pull my Dad's brown leather coat over my head as the downpour of piss rains down on me. Ah, fuck. The smell. Ammonia. They must get plenty of meat in that place.

There is only one truth: Death. It's so easy to say, but it's true. What else is true? Nothing is true. There are a few choice politicians into whose mouths I would like to shit. There are a few choice politicians upon whose graves I intend to dance one day. But what's a politician or two. Not even human. And they certainly don't constitute a generation. Open wide boys. I'll ride on in there, arse a-flashing: "Ahurrum, Mr Speaker, I'd like to thank the Honourable Member for his question and oompf oompf oompf." GST on toothbrushes will set 'em back a bit.

But the only truth is Death. Easy to say and sounds like a platitude I know. Sorry. Oompf oompf oompf. And Death rides on the horse. Casually. Cocky bastard. Pale Rider. No hurry … I'll type right-handed only (left hand otherwise employed—casually holding the reins, for instance—clean up yr dirty minds). And so here comes Doctor Bones, dressed up in the black armour, holding that pike with the red silk banner, visor on the helmet up … That grinning maw: some ungodly or godly sense of humour laughing away inside the hollowed head. Those sightless sockets seeing beyond all. So far beyond. Some interminable wisdom in his choice of mount.

Clearly some megalomania here if I want to ride that horse after all: to become Death. I have this fantasy that I'm the reincarnation of a long-dead and murdered pilgrim woman; or that she (her ghost) has taken possession of my body because I'm not using it. Sometimes I even dream I'm her, being killed as I'm being raped by Commanche or Crow brave. He cuts my throat. It doesn't hurt. Everything goes white and I hear galloping hooves upon a shale beach. Imagine the sparks before my eyes are the sparks flying off the hooves. Old Iron Horse. The horse has red eyes. Albino! I love that Crow brave. Wish he hadn't pinned my arms so that I could feel the hard muscles in his back. That's why I grow my hair long: to make up for the scalped ghost inside me

Bullshit. Cut my throat and call me smiley. If I'd been born four hundred years ago I would have been dead before she was (not counting her pacemaker: clip clop, clip clop), and who would have seen her become so quiet and meek after all? If not for the syringes … I looked at all the old photos. If she'd known that the sixth of her grandchildren was to be the one to slander her so, would she have let me live? Maybe she was Commanche in past lifetime.

I'm skirting around the main issue here: that damned horse. You understand this is not your conventional bloodstock we're talking about here. This is THE HORSE. The only one horse, ridden alternatively by the four horsemen of the apocalypse: John, Paul, George and Ringo—the pony express. It could all get messy here if I didn't go to bed and try to dream again. Every passing second, death clops one step closer. Horse is coming for us all. Inexorably. Drooling like a doberman; eyes like a bloodhound. Don Quixote had a ride I'm led to believe. Burroughs certainly did. Shot his wife straight through the forehead. Splat. Just like that.

So here we are. And what can I tell you about the Blood Horse? Understand that it's no horse for starters—just that's the symbolism of everything. Remember Guernica? There's a horse in it, and that horse is this horse. Blood Horse. Like Ted Hughes's Crow. Who is older and harder and indifferent to God? Horse. Who is older and harder and indifferent to Evil? Horse.

Amid any wrack and ruin; amid them all; in amidst the smoke and rubble and death and screaming; clopping past the crumpled, Horse is there, head down, neck bent, resolute. Horse looks askance at the broken (of heart, and body), looks down again at the path he's on, looks to the other side at those causes For Which and In Whose Name it was done. Their blast didn't touch him. Their brokenness of heart and body didn't touch him. Horse is just the Third Power: Good, Evil, Indifferent. Untouchable by Good and Evil, dumbly stepping on and crushing, grazing on, or leaving bereft; pausing to lift its tail and, flop flop flop flippity flop, shit a steaming pile into the dust—something to warm them through the night.

Blood Horse heralds disaster, then gathers itself up and carries on afterwards. During the disaster, Horse plods along untouchable, invisible, eternal. Like a steeplechaser … (unfortunate coincidence with that name). Like a steeplechaser: charging at the first steeple, leaping, and charging away. Like a steeplechaser: during the disaster, Horse LEAPS. Good and Evil left holding the track, the steeple, the track—no Horse. Oh, and just a small pile of steaming turds.

Resistant to radiation, starvation and evacuation; unhittable at every massacre; video camera in every torture chamber; uneaten at every famine, either eating nothing or eating everything (neither eating nothing nor everything). Blood Horse is Patriotism. Bloodhorse is Racism; is any ism; is is-ism. Blood Horse is Cataclysm (and I never liked the "Catacls" (Testicles, Tentacles, Catacls, etc—a regular lesson in anatomy.)).

[Another unfortunate coincidence here: that .)). is an abstract of Horse's face! (fringe and eyes if you look closely)]. Blood Horse is Capitalism. Dare I say Antidisestablishmentarianism? Nay. Sorry. But you get the idea: Horse.

There was this dream of flight once, but that's not relevant here. It was all about the air pushing upwards. Somehow there were laurel leaves involved. The light was so hot that it burned the back of the bird; it arched its back and screeched to the sky; half ash, half alight—screeching. Then the bird turned into a girl. Naked, running. Skin falling off. Skin fallen off. She won the war. She won. She was (is) beautiful. Screaming and screaming and screaming. Sky trailing flames, big chunky flames. How many times has this been repeated?

There is probably a mathematical explanation with an ingrained contradiction. When I shut my eyes I see the bull; The Red Bull. This is the same Red Bull that drove the last unicorn into the ocean, leaving the land bereft, deaf and blind to her. She is now the wave and roams and roams the world looking for a place to lay ashore. Infinitely turned away away. Looking away, eyes closed. Ashamed and saddened, pulling herself away. So there is no sense of shame or sorrow in The Red Bull. Just neo-brutalism; architecture for guerillas. Gorilla-faced Bull …

Ah, that's it! 1 + .)).0707\ = – ?o{. I will kill The Red Bull.

There won't be much blood here. Some things can't be seen. Sometimes it's better to have a cup of warm milk and off to bed (only works for the breastfed). But there won't be much blood. Some things can't be seen. Some things have been erased. Some things have been painted over. Some things are dead. Some are alive. Some never were, never will be. Some are points of reference, hints, directions, coordinating the whole sad music. It throws one back in upon oneself. Like Red Bull is an utterance of Blood Horse. How can it be? In which direction shall we read? There's just too much; it's too black. The way they fall makes me seasick. I had a dream of flight once. No, there is nowhere to run now there's nowhere to run. The hand that holds the knife is the hand that holds the paper, the microphone, video camera, hair, rose … Some things can't be seen. Some never never were.

Walk with care. The heat here was once so intense that the sand was turned into glass. The lake underneath charred and cracked: cracked all over like a windscreen. The light amplified in each crack. The patina a mosaic in which the ghastly events of the shield of Achilles are recorded. All glazed over. Walk carefully. The glass gives way under each step, cracking more. Nothing lives here anymore. If it would just rain.

In the circle in the centre someone has tried to do the raindance. Has chanted and stomped and twirled and pissed and shat and fallen down exhausted. Next to the body is a wicker bull's head and a half-smoked cigarette gone out. The arms and hands are marked with striations cut using a fragment of the glass (a shard) or else the broken sword which is out of place here. The little blood has commingled with the dust and turned into dust itself. The corpse is grinning idiotically; the eyeballs dried out and shrivelled and grey; fingernails absurdly long and lumpy. The chalk outline around the body looks like a galloping horse, flying above the ground, mid-leap perhaps. And closely, if you look down into the glass, tiny shells and coils and whatnot are frozen into the sand. It all smells salty.

So having roped and saddled and mounted Horse as I'd intended— something absurdly easy or disinterested in the whole process, as if I've done nothing at all and this was the horse's idea in any case and I've just lucked on for the ride—we plod into the arena where old Red Toro has up a full head of steam. I have my Mickey Mouse hat, I have my embroidered jacket. I have my knee-breeches and long stockings. I really feel the part. Picador —any door! Sean is laid out under the Bull's feet, red cape around his legs like a skirt. He has a peaceful look on his face at last, even a gentle smile. It must be so quiet there under the Bull. Ole. OLE! There are clowns and rejoneadors and yelping padded ponies rushing about, crows sitting on the flagpoles at the tops of the stands, soccer hooligans throwing bottles and plastic seats at one another; a wedge of riot police wades in with truncheons whopping down; tear gas cannisters lobbing in over the walls, water cannon, megaphone instructions, final sirens, police sirens, fire sirens, air raid sirens, sirens, Odysseus. It really is on for young and old. A regular how the West was one. Even Clint Eastwood with old hickory axe handle smackin in a few jaws: crack, crack.

Old Horse stops.

It parks side-on to the Red Bull, lifts its tail and starts to dump those turds (ears back, listening in a self-congratulatory way)—flop flop flop flippety flop. The Red Bull throws off whatever rags and toys it can, paws over Sean (he rolls face down, arms slack by his sides), snorts, levels those great curved horns and charges.

I dig my heels into Horse's sides, "Hee-Yah!" But he doesn't respond. Just parked there, head down, one hind foot tipped forward and bearing no weight.

When the impact comes I can feel the Blood Horse belly swell up under the power of the Red Bull. I can hear Beethoven playing somewhere. Such a perfect impact that the Horse is lifted up like a bucking mustang and I'm catapulted higher. But I was ready. I hang in the air (plenty of time). I aim my pick, hooked in tight under my left arm, back curled and tense so that I will come down with all my weight on the spearpoint. I sing to myself: "My home is in the spearhead; my heart is in my mouth." This is such fun. And, humming, I come down on the Red Bull's shoulders and drive it in deep and high between the ribs—leaning in as far as I can.

The Red Bull is not finished and not backing off. Horse has landed on his feet and is leaning with me to hold the spear firmly into the Bull. The Red Bull hunkers down now and drives powerfully forward, sliding Blood Horse sideways as he pushes, but also driving himself further onto the spear. When my shoulder is against his back and I can smell the hot metallic blood—can even see in ridiculous close-up the auburn curls on the top of his neck—when I can feel my shoulder getting dark and wet I figure it's in deep and permanent enough to let go and stand back. So I let go.

(Something interminable, unimaginable, something cold, falls slowly, endlessly. Falling. Waiting. Such a weight. Falling. Slit.)

And nobody wins.

Nobody dies.

Even if you say nothing, you are saying nothing.

It is all very silent. The Red Bull didn't die. Blood Horse appears untouched but for a puncture wound in the belly where gored by the Bull's horn. Blood dribbles from the wound. Black blood. Like ink.