A mile here, a mile there

Nodding in the sun, our long reins loose, 
we move just faster than a man can walk 
on a metal road, a mile here, a mile there 
idly we see how the rotting goes 
in the bloated sheep in the slow cold creek 
gracefully floating the algae aside. 
We go by hebe, by lacebark, lancewood 
by our family reserve—we have guns 
and we know how to use them— 
bush lawyer, five fingers wave us on 
along the long mile, either way 
crunching stones with metal shoes. 
A sudden sun, a breeze lifts the leaves 
of clematis, it breathes, we breathe 
its papery flowers. Dad whistles 
up warbler and bellbird, who sound 
around us in huge clear air 
echo, quicksilver silvery birds. 
The creek sings along, banks and swirls 
bubbles deep into milky dark. Oh, 
eel thoughts slide along our sides. 
The horses’ heads nod and rise in step 
so humming, I poke my brother’s pony 
with the end of my stick to make it kick. 


Marty Smith grew up in remote hill country between Pahiatua and the sea. This is one of the quieter poems in Horse with Hat, which is coming out with VUP in February 2014.