This day he's dawdling home by the blacksmith's
forge. He loves the glow there, the spit
of sparks and a high sweet belling
of anvil and hammer. Bobbie Coggins
from his school is working now, smoothly
tucks his body in the body of a horse,
drawing the hoof up across his knees,
when both hooves smash out once,
twice, and the horse panics around
the small yard, shivers to a stop
far from the still shape as the halter allows.
The boy scrambles to Bobbie curved like a foetus,
and feels the body's convulsions dwindle
slowly away. Blood wells
in Bobbie's mouth, the pupils veer up
under the lids. Johnson the blacksmith
shoves him aside. “Get out of here! Go home!
Go home!” Cries of call the doctor.
He knows it is too late for the doctor.
A crowd gathers and the doctor comes,
then in a little while they lift the body,
wrapped in a blanket, to the Imperial Hotel
over the wide main street of the town.
The boy unhitches his pony and slowly
leads it home by the bridle. He couldn't ride.
His hands and feet are those of a dead child
whose last shudders again and again
pelt through him. Someone might be screaming.
Wednesday crowds are milling round him,
horse-drawn vehicles, the odd motor-car,
the snake-man hawking cures from the back of a dray.
Maybe. At home he turns the horse
loose in the lower paddock and stares
through cherry branches at the great sky.
He sidles into the house without a word.
His father at dinner: “The little Coggins
boy was killed today. Kicked by a horse.
Killed instantly, I believe.” No, not instantly.
Those dying tremors. “Poor Bill Johnston
was terribly cut up.” His mother's
small cry, “Just a child…”
out of the room.
“I think he knew Bobbie Coggins.
He left school only a week ago,”
Dives into bed. He doesn't undress.
Pulls blankets over his face. The tremors
dwindle slowly and he sleeps now,
wakens puzzled to be in his clothes.
Little by little yesterday creeps back,
Bobbie Coggins in the blue parlour
of the Imperial Hotel, waiting for his coffin.
He'll wait there till he's buried. Cogginses
have only a ramshackle hut far in the hills.
The boy goes about his farm chores
greedily alive. The first morning of the earth,
hens scratch and keen in the dusty
sun. He breathes the barn's hay-smell,
the tang of the stable, a fume
of dung and urine, chaff and harness oil.
A vast quiet in the world,
the dead child who inhabits him forever.
Tears in his half-closed eyes encircle
a telling of rainbows.
And if the story
comes now from an old man who invents the boy,
and Bobbie Coggins, years after,
for what need? If it matters that it happened
just this way? Then it matters and let
be. Let the human creature
bless itself before death with stories.