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Sport 40: 2012

Sleeping on horseback

Sleeping on horseback

‘We had ridden long and were still far from the inn’
Writes Po Chu-I (772–846)
A sentiment echoed by Mary and Joseph,
Hillary and Tenzing, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

I am no Po but I too have fallen asleep on my horse.
‘In my left hand the reins for an instant slackened’.
Who took Po’s reins, in that instant?

Afterwards, Po questioned his groom;
I have no such witness.
In honesty, I do not even have a horse.

But the inn! I can see the wood smoke curling
Over the next rise, across the t-junction
The sun is setting and, confident of arrival,
I set up camp to rest.

Then I notice other tents in the trees.
Days alone and now this
Everyone is heading towards their personal inns.

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No longer feeling like a cowboy
I greet my neighbours with a dog-like grin,
Trade a sorrow for a happiness, tears for water,
Brown bread for white.

And possibly I stay in that camp
For a hundred years—
‘A hundred years are but a moment of sleep’
Writes Po, still riding.