Cúchulainn wins the Great Northern


Nuns keep arriving
— in waves, in clouds 
of stiff little veils 
Sister Cornelius
Mother Crucentia
Sister Ignatius 
of the Little Sisters
come to bless him, Cúchulainn
and get the good oil
from broken-tooth Finbar Leahy.

In shrouds of sun, the veils of God
at the front of the tote.
Cool fingers 
rosaries, reliquary objects
Cúchulainn’s at any old odds:
the nuns put it all on the nose
glide, all cobalt grace.
The crowd steps away
to let them right up to the rail.

Two and a half miles
of mud and ice
beautiful to watch
over five-foot fences
Cúchulainn reaches for pure speed
tears free 
of the slowed-down air
Leahy’s swinging on him
you can mortgage the house
put it all on
They’re going hard —
at the 500
the Lord opens up a gap
Leahy gets a Red Sea run
Cúchulainn’s clearing out

The sisters raise their hands
leap in the air
bits of hair fly loose
he’s got up and dropped them
Shut the gate — the bird has flown!

Pink suffuses her face,
Sister Mary Martin de Porres.
She kisses her tickets.

Finbar Leahy salutes the judge 
tips his face to God
after kissing the horse.


Dracula (Crimson Saint — Shocking)


Still dark outside,
I fight to get the bit in. 
He pulls me off my feet.

Get over you bastard, says Alfie
knees him in the guts
to make him let air out

drags the girth up tight —
Dracula savages the air 
shakes it up in shock waves —

I’m too scared to admit I’m scared.

                 Alfie throws me up.
The horse sinks on his hocks, lurches against the wall
rattles the chains like snakes.
         I snap the clip of my skull cap shut.
           alright? asks Alfie.
I nod.    He unclicks the chains —
                explosive swing away 
                the back muscles bunch —
we let loose this way, that way 
           in leaps across the yard.

Trackwatchers flatten back.
          Just sit quiet on him Alfie says

           jig, jig jig goes the bit as Dracula worries 
at steel, pull-jerks my arms
jolts us towards the open grass   the course proper
                   we’re coming out on 
                   wide wide green 

                     If he gets away on you, says Alfie, don’t fight him.
When you try and fight, they just pull harder. If you get in trouble
         kick him up hard along the straight
make him think he’s had a race, he might ease up
once you’re past the post 

horses go snorting past, Dracula sinks down
like a cat

little prayers keep leaking out
        I put my feet in the irons, cross
the reins to get a good hold

Alfie lets the bridle go


Marty Smith is an ex-trackwork rider who has attended Poetry Workshops at the IIML with Greg O’Brien and Shannon Welch. This year, with the help of Damien Wilkins and the MA class, she has been writing a collection of poetry.