Beasts of Burden

Ceiling decoration, Collier Room, Methodist Central Hall (Manchester)


But they will rise up again soon,
these charismatic, bullied horses,
tearing away at last from
the reins of their oppression
to stamp on those who have
ridden high on their backs
throughout the best of their years.
Sweat on their flanks and
eyes rolling wildly, they will
toss their riders like
dolls flung from prams,
and trample them beneath
hooves sharpened to jagged
scythes by the harshness of
the roads they have trodden.
Their knees strengthened
neither by their toil nor by prayer,
but rather by the very hand
of history ushering them into
their moment;
compelling their revolt,
fuelling their very brutality.
It will be a short-lived pleasure,
quickly put down by guns and whips,
ignored by the crowds and
forgotten by historians.
But for a glorious hour
these proud beasts will
once again taste the greatest
degree of self-determination known
under the auspices of slavery.
These wild, charismatic horses,
rearing violently, heads tossed
back to taste the wind.


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