by Oliver Leech
(in a field near Langot Lane between Fairoak and Croxton, Staffordshire)
The shortest day of the year, cold, blustery.
Past a windmill with no sails,
down tractor-track paths in a mud-lined, hedge-hemmed lane.
Over a gate we spied the Wrekin
slumped like a drunk on the horizon
and under bare trees, hidden by bracken and brambles,
the caves, hermit hovels, if you believe such tales.
Then, above the wide slope of a field,
sharp against the clouds, three horses,
solid and still,
as if beamed from far away
or statues conjured out of vapour,
marble out of mist.
We stared at them, they at us.
The wind, louder, gave the clouds an extra shove
and over the stile we left them,
to stay or melt back into sky.
Select ‘listen in browser’ or ‘play’ to listen to Three Horses
The Woodland Quarter in north west Staffordshire, the land both sides of the road between Loggerheads and Eccleshall, is a place of history and legend and where once on a winter solstice I saw three horses stand stock-still against a stormy sky. And that is how the poem started.
I have always loved the way words enable you to travel baggage-free into the territory of new ideas. I have practised calligraphy for many years and often try to present poems in appropriate lettering. A composer sets words to music: a calligrapher tries to make them sing on the page. In 2016 I put together Shreds and Patches, a collection of short poems, thoughts and reflections which includes some images that bring together words, calligraphy and artwork. – Oliver