She felled me, the little spaniel,
The child’s pet, who raced the wood;
The horse and I, thudded on mud,

Still glimpsed the flying spaniel,
On the beeches’ ridge, on her run,
Ears streamed to the stern winter sun.

Yet I stroked the silky spaniel,
Though the horse’s knee bulged (scars fill)
Though we never dared trot downhill.

Food entranced this slender spaniel;
She learned that the pony would skim
Apple rain from the bucket’s brim,

Shower the head of a spaniel
Who quivered with patience below,
Stole every sweet scrap, then would go-

A loyal and attentive spaniel -
To lick my hand, sink at my feet;
Would not follow her owner, would eat

Lightest of crumbs, fine-nosed spaniel,
From flapjack or shortbread, tracked hard
Dropped sweets like a voice down the yard.

I did not waylay the old spaniel
When they tramped off to scrub out the troughs
In hill-fields: too fast.  She was lost.

Down bare, high slopes, the slow spaniel
Nosed each friendly breath the grass gave.
The six horses rose like a wave,

No one knows whose hoof hit the spaniel.
Ex-stallion, mad head in the air?                     
The great bay?  She lay frozen there.

By the stove, the shrunken spaniel,
Beneath the best quilts, mounded high,
Sniffs me; flickers a blood-rimmed eye;

Licks my flapjack’s dust, true spaniel,
Honeyed from my palm’s cleft,
Licks my hand once, slowly, firmly,
Though not a crumb is left.

Alison Brackenbury

If you have any comments on this poem, Alison Brackenbury would be pleased to hear from you.