The old stories are often the best and by the best I mean the scariest. One of the most terrifying creatures of Celtic folklore is the Kelpie or Water Horse. It comes trotting up to you, all My Little Pony, tossing its long mane and floppy forelock – however! Should you be so foolish as to mount it, its eyes flame, you find you are stuck to its back with no escape, and it leaps into the nearest stretch of water where it will eat you.
This is a true story told to me by a friend who lived for a time on Skye.
The horse is white, not grey. Not
a runaway from a field. Nobody here or hereabouts
owns a white horse.
What’s more, your dog, the Kerry Blue,
is doing what dogs do when they chance
on the uncanny,
standing motionless and staring
at the shore where Saint Columba
made his landing.
This horse is whiter than any dove,
so bright it stings your eyes
sears itself into your mind,
drags your hesitant feet
towards the brooding Sound,
as it surges over shingle, rocky skerries,
vanishing behind sheer cliffs,
When you reach the tideline
the beast will be gone.
You’ll see no hoof prints in the sand
and you’ll question the memory of a horse,
dreamt from spindrift,
beating its ancient bounds,
even as your dog
explores and sniffs, barks for you
to throw her sticks.
© Deborah Harvey 2014
This poem is from my new collection, Map Reading for Beginners, which is published tomorrow by Indigo Dreams and available from them, Amazon if you must, and all good independent bookshops ... or from me personally at the launch in Bristol on 26th September. It would be good to see you there!