Steeplechase: The Creative Challenge Cup Poem by Sheena Blackhall

Steeplechase: The Creative Challenge Cup

Entries were high that year.
Steel-eyed jockeys reigned back restive mounts.
The usual mix – Press, Pros, Nouveaux,
Amateur hacks who nurse bruised bank accounts.
A cloud, big as an ice-floe,
Sat Buddha-still on a cherry tree,
A single cherry-tree, branchful of birds;
But only one bird sang – ignored by me –
A common bird, a thrush I think it was:
I scarcely heard, blood rushing in my ears.
A hush crept through the crowd.
Electric pause. All senses narrowed to the course ahead.
You have to make your mark,
Ambition hissed, Before you 're dead!
The starting shot was fired and I was off!
Weekender plodders fell at the first hurdle.
Gathering speed, my steed's hoofs sprouted wings.
Galloping, galloping, galloping, we ate grass.

My thoughts ran quicksilver, were racing things.
Riders were streaks, receding as I'd pass.
Inspired ideas went chasing, chasing, chasing
After the leaders, muscles tensing, bracing,
The hurdles veering higher, higher, higher.
My pony flew like Pegasus on fire.
Success was worth all agony, all pain.
Hurts became sticks to feed creation's flame;
And then, that leap of leaps: defying fears,
I soared and touched the kingdom of the spheres...

Fell tumbling, tumbling, like a withered leaf.
A nightmare drop, no forest floor beneath.
Within, I was a citadel of sand:
How long I fell — a week, year — I forget. I cannot tell —
I may be falling yet.
But then it seemed my horse's hooves touched ground
And, blessed note, I heard a tiny sound.
A common bird. A thrush. Reality.
The first I'd known,
Magnificent edifices, dizzying spires;
Illusions rooted in dissolving land.
Unstable, shuddering on a shifting shore,
Disabling tides eroding more and more.
Mansions were levelled, minarets shrank, tumbled.
Reality fell down, foundations crumbled,
Within the soul's dark night, profoundly lost;
All boundaries crossed,
As pictures danced and leered behind each glass
And Satan spread a picnic on the grass.

Returned from that far country
Where lightning's lunge can slash the proudest sail;
Where many fall as did at Passchendaele,
Or shaken, creep back home on crippled feet
With scars invisible.That man you meet...
Dual nationhood may hide behind his smile.
Land of the lost. I lived there for a while.

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