We rode, usually hacks on hire
from the School. Also, some boarded by owners,
military men, merchant princes, their princess
mercenary daughters. Half a crown a day,
sometimes a tip for taking them to the Hunt:
an Arab pony which was into wellknown drapery,
a stockbroking pinto with a chopping action
which broke step all the time and was hell
on any kid’s descending balls, an iron-
mouthed endlessly patient sorrel, one broken
winded trotter. She had failed.
that went on about, not quite at, the Hunt,
at various stables.
Oh merchant princes of
the city which is not entirely built by hands
how little you guessed how busy
and we in our innocence comparing,
a simon simple chorus. That was the life
even if all the time it rained
on a leather coat like a Prussian officer’s
passed down to me from a girl who once waitressed
for us. "Get your back straight," Father said,
"watch your hands." My hands? In that
horsy fervour of Did you see? goggle-eyed
not all, not nearly enough. Some we had to take
on trust, behind a Pakuranga hedge,
in the back of a steamed up Pontiac,
the confidence: "When my sister has her monthlies
you should see . . ." and, sisterless, we heeded
his authority, but challenged: "Through
the bathroom window of course." He scorned us.
Rain came down like a cold shower. Was it
true as they said in Truth?
touched thoughtful moustaches. Merchants smiled
on wives and touched their hard hats.
Girls were touched up, those smiled-upon
daughters tight in their jodpurs, booted,
hard, sure in the saddle. They knew,
they did not need to confide.
We returned in the dark like a Lost Patrol:
ride one, lead two, their saddles empty.