RDW's poems

7- Riding

And so they rode.  For four months Briar Rose
rode on the horse behind the shining Knight –
with shining head.  She had him clip his hair
The straggly locks weren’t what a Princess wants

From Acton they would ride to Notting Hill
up on their trusty number seventy bus
and then ride back.  “Where is your kingdom, Knight?
Tell me about your castle, Mr Prince”

A problem here.  No kingdom and no castle
for this Knight – he’s dispossessed.  You try
to tell your wife you’re going on a quest
to rescue sleeping maidens in the woods

“You’re on a quest?  I don’t care what you’re on!
Your place is here, with me.  I am your quest!
You can’t walk out of here!”  And so he ran,
and took what he could carry as he ran.

Which didn’t leave him very well equipped
for rescuing.  You might think someone should
be rescuing him – but he was off the map,
salvation’s map.  He couldn’t save himself.

He set up camp.  A narrow folding bed,
a simple place to cook and sleep and eat
all in one room.  It had a separate loo;
even in Acton there are building codes

But not a palace for a Princess Fair –
no phone, no telly, one bed and two chairs
three paces long by two and one-half wide
But even knights on quests lie down to sleep,

and Sleeping Beauties too.  So there we lay
in Acton, in a bedsit, through the nights
And rode by day – to work and back again –
and rode into the night to pass the time

We went to films, found cheapest restaurants,
until forced back to four small walls to sleep
Why didn’t we just leave?  Go straight ahead
and not in circles, work and back again?

The Knight was mortgaged – had his debts to pay
And Briar Rose?  That is the fairy tale:
that you hop on a horse and ride away
wearing a smile and a bathing suit

Real people lease themselves.  They have effects
These are the briars: we have history
Her history was sitting parcelled up
in several hundred plastic carrier bags

piled shoulder high in three rooms in a flat
in Clapham Old Town.  So we had a choice:
We ride in circles – or I take her back.
I took her back.            Reader:  I took her back.

I fixed the water heater, cleared two paths –
left to the kitchen and right to the bath
And took her back.
She screamed.
“Just one more month!
You move!  I’ll pay the rent.  I’ll beg or steal

to pay for just one month.  We could have sex
again,  I might not feel so bad, so low.
I need the time – one month – to cut away
a few more brambles, make myself a bed.

I can’t go back and sleep on plastic bags.”
And so:  she can’t go back;  I can’t go on.
I had to act – that’s all I know to do.
I am a Knight.  I ride.  I swing my sword.

I took her back.

The briars gleamed – distending all their barbs.
A thousand paws, a thousand thousand claws.
And there I left her.  There she is today

And I keep riding.  Ride the bus to work
and back again – and check the emails, do
the paperwork, write management reports

All in all a busy way to sleep


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