‘Took me into the gaff. Shot me in both arms. Three weeks in Tallaght hospital. Three weeks at home recovering.’

Fifteen-year-old youth, whose body looks like a suburb of Baghdad. Sunflower- yellow hair, head shaped like one of the horses’ heads in the production of Equus I saw, a play about a teenager who is sexually attracted to horses.

Eyes, an emerald that has been wronged, green as the horse trampled Scheme greensward.

Septic scar on his chin.

One of the eyes of the man who shot Horsey swollen so that part of his face looked like a rancid onion.

‘What happened to him?’

‘He’s dead.’

 

Horsey has a horse and saddle ring given to him by Joker Jewin.

Joker Jewin was born between Epsom and Croydon. Worked on the roads at Grove Park Kent with forty-six Irishmen. He was the only Englishman.

Became interested in the Republican movement.

Tattoo on his back of crossed Republican rifles, which he got in Croydon. Horse and saddle tattoo on his right arm.

Two bottles smashed in his face in a hotel in Croydon by an Orangeman. ‘A nice scar for life.’ Thus the name Joker as Joker in Batman who has a scar.

Rides around Tallaght in a daffodil-coloured Philip Jowett dray drawn by a monkey- coloured pony with a white square on its forehead.

Knows how to make gin-traps for rabbits and mesh traps with perch swing for crows and magpies who steal chickens’ eggs or eat the young of other birds.

They have made me feel like a crow or a magpie who’s been eating the blue eggs of the song thrush.

‘Lie down with the dogs, wake up with fleas,’ says Figroll, in a primrose-coloured hoodie jacket, ‘Lie down with the pigeons and you’ll wake up tumbling.’

Horsey deals drugs, often owes money.

Figroll has lonely, lonely lapis lazuli eyes. Blue of the classroom orb of planet Earth when I was a child. In his hoodie cuirass has a head like a popping peanut.

A field mouse who has run in from the fields, a grey squirrel clasping an acorn in the Phoenix Park. The grey squirrels have reached the Grand Canal from the Phoenix Park but they who eliminated the red squirrels are in turn being coerced by escaped chipmunks.

‘There’s a bed and a television there,’ Figroll informs me, looking at the Grand Canal. ‘You could lie on the bed and watch the television.’

 

At fourteen or fifteen they go to the Phoenix Park at night, join the Rumanian, the Polish, the Chinese boys among ilex trees, among chestnut trees and Scotch pines, among blackberry and hawthorn bushes, raise a flickering lighter. Those trackie bottoms come down. Their buttocks manifest. White ammunition.

Fifty euros each time.

Money for horses. Money for drugs.

The rabbits nibbling and the stags rutting.

‘It’s been going on for hundreds of years. Got stage fright at first,’ says Ryaner, aged fourteen, hair the colour of New England in autumn, skin white as a squall of gulls. In an Afghan hat face like a cuckoo that comes out of a cuckoo clock.

Sometimes the guards shine magnetic cling headlights at them and they scatter into a grove of evergreen oaks.

 

‘They go to the Phoenix Park not just for money. They want that experience.’

I’m talking to a man in a hat, T-shirt with a tropical scene—sea, sunset, palm trees— by the Grand Canal.

‘Where are you from?’

‘You know, where the horse hair is held.’

‘Peace and love.’

 

Young desperado Scythians. Scythians one of the earliest people to master the art of riding. Every Scythian had at least one personal mount. They owned large herds of mongolian ponies. Some of these sacrificed with wife, children, servants on the owner’s death. mathias, the thirteenth apostle, was saved from being eaten by them by the Apostle Andrew who’d crossed the Black Sea by express boat.

Some of the boys smoke finely rolled joints—like the cigarette sweets Rosaleen Keane in my town sold when I was a child—as they ride horses.

 

 

Palomino is a colour they say. There’s a dead palomino in the fields. An abandoned piebald—all ribs.

When the horses are confiscated they’re just ordinary kids, asking you to buy them smokes, asking you to buy them wine, asking you to buy them score bags—heroin, pulling up an Iron maiden T-shirt which has a face with skeleton’s teeth, one of the teeth a miniature skull, to show you bullet wounds in their arms they got for not paying for drugs.

When the horses are gone the girls lead the boys along the canal as if they were horses.

Girls with elaborate bouffants like cross dressers—toffee-coloured, Danny La Rue blonde, wing quiffs brushed in flamingo.

In the case of one of the boys, Eak, who has a Sicilian lemon blond turf-cut, eyes the blue of a pet parrot someone has abandoned to an Irish wilderness, a horse had previously been the girlfriend. A chestnut and white foal with chestnut measles on the white patch who would try to nuzzle his pubes the colour of carrot cake.

 

‘Ride a cock horse to Coventry Cross
To see a fine lady on a white horse…’
Lady Godiva rode naked through Coventry once and Peeping Tom was struck blind for looking at her when all menfolk were supposed to be indoors.

Kil, youth with butter-bath body, eyes the blue of Homer’s seas, in boxers patterned with Hell flames, rides a grey Australian pony—‘a filly with a willy,’ he calls her—into the Square Pond

‘You could put that six pack in the fridge,’ Figroll comments.

Three or four year old newts returned to the Square Pond in early autumn. Crabs, lobsters here. Pike. ‘Pike will bite your toes.’

Otters by the Scheme Bridge.

Otters are born blind, I tell Kil.

‘No way.’

‘Kil rode his bird in the canal once,’ Figroll announces.

 

‘I’m fishing for little, small roach,’ Denone, half Traveller, half Costa Rican, his mother’s mother from North West Guanacaste region—Spanish, Indian, Blacks brought to raise bananas.

A bit like a Dundee cake himself—knobs of hair, nuts of freckles.

Denone caught an otter while fishing for pike. Snapped the line. Otters have strong teeth.

Pike here—freshwater shark, perch, roach, hybrids—roach and bream mate. Tench only feed in summer. Go underwater in winter.

Denone lived for a while at Pegham Copse near Colchester where his father Pittir got a job welding gates and boxed with Three Finger Jack White at Dummers Clump in Hampshire where that Ferguson who went to Buckingham is from.

Denone learns to box at matthew’s Boxing Club in Ballyfermot and on his wall he has an advertisement for Brutal Nutrition, bare breasted, putty-breasted ladies intermingled with boxers and the caption: ‘The bad part was yesterday.’

 

They have a game—tea bags.

Older ones pin the younger ones on the ground and take their genitals in their mouths.

Young boys like the three puppies—mutts he called them—Tyrian purple and an incense rising inside his vertically blue and white striped hoodie jacket, which Figroll saved from being drowned in the Grand Canal.

‘Do you want to buy one?’

Some of the genitals are too small, the older boys complain.

Genitals like beetroot leaf, like sweet pea, like the catkins of the hazel tree.

Female catkins of the alder tree are hard and cone-like in autumn and maybe the small boys’ penises are like that in the mouths of the older boys.

Their grandfathers used to go bird-nesting—seek the buff eggs of the golden plover, the brown eggs of the lapwing, the whitish ones of the kestrel—pocaire gaoithe, windfucker—and perhaps the small boys’ genitals were like these eggs in the mouth.

Figroll’s grandfather Bomber Sheehan was in Artane Industrial School for joyriding at thirteen and he told Figroll about Dirty Hairy Sixpence who used to visit the school and get the boys to retrieve sixpences from down his trousers as if they were the Cleeve’s toffees or Sweet Afton cigarettes thrown towards Artane boys in Croke Park.

‘Sing a Song of Sixpence
A bag full of rye
Four and twenty naughty boys,
Bak’d in a pye…’

A small boy who looks like a garden gnome in tracksuit, puts his hands down his tracksuit bottoms, showing a Jacob’s Coconut Cream-white belly.

 

Big Lips, silken blond turf with tramlines he gets in the barber’s own home on Sundays, eyes the blue of a Bible picture Nile, after his breakfast of Weetabix Chocolate Chip minis, rides Sweet Feet, his Lucozade-coloured mare to school, tethers it to the railings, then rides it home to a lunch of a potato, a scone, a mr Kipling Chocolate Whirl.

In the evening by the Square Pond he makes sure Sweet Feet eats white cabbage and chopped carrots as a Victorian mother would make her children eat their porridge.

 

‘The kids think they’re Tony montano in Scarface.

‘In this country, you got to make the money first. Then when you make the money, you get the power. Then when you get the power, then you get the women.’

Angel Lips has blonde hair in Tyrolese pigtails, heavy doll eye make-up, green nail varnish, white plimsolls with billiard-green laces.

‘You look like the fellow who robs gaffs in Home Alone. I love black babies. I’d love to have one. Black boys have big willies. I love Akon. He’s blacker than Soulja Boy.’

Risha, aged seventeen, margarine or jaundice colour running through her hair, zebra stripe boots, has her three-year-old son Lenzo’s name in pillar tattoo on her wrist.

Lace, aged nineteen, Beaujolais Nouveau-coloured hair, has her six-year-old son Ezy’s name in pillar tattoo on her neck.

The government is farming out the population.

She and Ezy are going to live on Holly Estate in Tralee.

‘I give him the peanut butter with jelly in it.’

Bo, aged fifteen, features that look as if they’d been fastened together by safety pins, navy leggings with a pattern of rocking horses, is pregnant by Horsey and is going to live in Limerick. mayross she calls moyross for beautification.

‘What do you work at?’

‘Bits and pieces.’

‘Bits and bobs. Are you on the buildings?’

‘Are you on the scratcher?’ Figroll cuts in, boxers with a pattern of Santa Claus hats showing above his trackie bottoms.

‘Do you want that?’ Boo asks. She offers me the butt of a cigarette.

 

Kissy, banana-blonde hair, who wears a yellow, red, blue, green rosary around her neck, found Cleo in Palmerston Woods. A Shetland pony with a ginger mane which made him look like a Billy boy. Sores all over her body from being whipped. Suffering from bog burn—hairs falling off from the mud. Took him to Figroll who has had horses all his life.

‘Sold fifteen horses this week. In the fields and upland. Turned over fifteen grand.’

Figroll bought a Clydesdale from his father. Bred near the m1, North London. ‘A Clydesdale out of England.’ Sold it back to him.

‘Have you ever been to the Appleby Fair?’ I ask Figroll.

‘I heard people get raped at Appleby. Boys and girls. On the hill where they camp. If all the money was in England and there were no euros in Ireland, I wouldn’t go to England.’

 

If you go into Palmerston Woods bring a stick in case a badger attacks you. If he attacks break the stick because he’ll think that’s a bone breaking. The badger will attack you until a bone in the ankle breaks.

Figroll was camping by Blessington Lakes once. There was an American pit bull on a leash there. A badger attacked Figroll. He threw a stick at it.

A miniature Jack Russell will shake a rat and break its neck if he catches it. But the badger will kill a Jack Russell.

Smelly John from Edmonton, a tomato-coloured laceration under his right eye, has half a black Border collie called Loo, blind in one eye, and a Santa Claus Pomeranian called Judge, who can combat badgers.

Twelve badgers live in Palmerston Woods and have built tunnels of escape there. I feel like them.

‘You’d be better off in jail,’ says Smelly John from Edmonton looking towards Wheatfield Prison where he spent time for staging American pit bull fights, ‘Three square meals a day. Television. Snooker. Training courses. They treat you well if you belong to an illegal organisation. Catholic or Protestant. There are Orangemen in the South. There are Orangemen all over the South.

‘There was a fellow there with the Orange lily and 1690 on his leg.’

 

‘How’s your love life?’

In winter twilight, a cilium of very yellow reed canary grass by the canal, Figroll suddenly pulls down his trackie bottoms.

‘Is there a bruise on me arse?’

Donkey Lips, a jack rabbit in a scarlet Éire-Ireland T-shirt 2011, lights up the intense orifice with the light of his mobile phone, buttocks like the pronunciations on the heron’s neck.

Dirck van Baburen couldn’t have done better.

On a May evening when purple lilac is mixed with the hawthorn blossom, Figroll suddenly demonstrates his penis as if it was a machine.

His hair Easter chick yellow and barley, but an arc of a penis above eclipsed water-rat coloured pubes.

‘Doesn’t Figroll have a very big prick?’ asks Tooler admiringly, eyes blue as Croagh Patrick, protean, early adolescent features, changed since autumn when his hair looked like a wren’s nest stomped on his head, and he wore a wild bear colour anorak.

A baby bear escaped from Dublin zoo sixteen years ago and came to the Square Pond.

Figroll looks like one of the sons of Laocoön in the sculptural group which influenced michelangelo, constrictor sea serpent from the Greek camp on the Island of Tenedos wound about date cluster genitals.

Laocoön was a priest of Troy who broke his vow of celibacy by begetting Antiphates and Thymbraeus and was punished for both.

 

Wooden horse built by Epeius, the master carpenter, so the Greeks could gain access to Troy.

 

Smithfield—cattle, hay market since 1664. Horses sold here since late 1800s. Everything sold here—ferrets, rats.

I’d seen the turnover in horses, the sudden rejection of paramour horses, the sallying to Smithfield Square which had been lined with farmyards until recently, to buy a new horse or exchange a horse with fifty euro in the difference.

‘He doesn’t sleep with his mum and Dad. He’s got a girlfriend. He fancies me. But he fancies you the same.’

Three Romany girls near me at Smithfield market early march.

One in poinsettia red mini dress.

One with miniature melon picture hat as hair ornament.

One in denim hot pants with bib, and reflector yellow high heels.

One of the girl’s fathers comes from England to sell rope harnesses here but his mother has settled in Kilmacthomas in County Waterford.

The girl’s bodies have creosote oil on them used for railway sleepers, used for the wooden engine of the Bouncy Castle Rodeo Bull, the young, city centre based manager I’m talking to, horse at side, cartoon cowboy on it, which he brought to Appleby Fair, which he brought to the Horse Fair in the town I’m from, when the left arm of a youth—a koala bear, a brindled boxer dog, a tortoise shell butterfly in a black, white fur trimmed hoodie jacket—is slashed with a machete nearby.

‘Sliced like an orange by a sword,’ Tooler, whom I meet shortly afterwards, describes it.

Shots are fired from a makeshift gun, causing mayhem—lost purses, stolen horses— and a horse stampede, which looks like one of Michael Cimino’s panoramas of the Wyoming Johnson War of the 1890s.

 

‘Doesn’t he have big balls?’

Tooler’s older brother Fluffy, eyes the blue of a cornflower that has run away from home, in a jacket with a Native American horse at the back of it, pulls back the tail of a chestnut New Forest pony bought at Smithfield and walked home along the Grand Canal that Sunday when blows were rained with tyre irons.

‘Indiana Jones,’ he cries, riding away on the New Forest pony, recalling Indiana Jones riding a rhinoceros while chasing a truck in Africa.

‘Did you sell any horses in Smithfield?’ I ask Baz, a boy whose hair in autumn was chick feather light dun. Now it’s turtle coloured. It grows on his head like a clump of chives from an old teapot. But his eyes are still the eyes of babyhood.

‘No, I sold donkeys.’

The Jerusalem two-stroke Figroll calls a donkey.

Baz has a little donkey, Amy, from County Mayo, who looks as if snow has fallen on her and some of it turned to slush.

‘You could get Channel Four on those ears,’ extols Figroll.

 

In 1600 Cheapside vintner William Banks’ bay gelding Marocco, shoed in silver, known to Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, Sir Walter Raleigh, Dekker, Rowley, middleton, climbed to the top of Saint Paul’s Cathedral, to the applause of braying donkeys.

 

Donkey Lips’ eyes are a piñata—a children’s party he doesn’t want me to come to. When I ask the colour of his eyes and try to look at them he scrunches up his face like a scrolled baby’s napkin.

‘That’s a weird question for these parts. Would you ask the Limerick boys what’s the colour of their eyes?’

‘I had to stop Donkey Lips from knifing you for asking the colour of his eyes,’ Figroll warns me later.

 

Limerick boys…

When you’ve lived in a place for thirteen years, and you’re suddenly driven out— the riverine haw, the sloes, the rosehips you miss, the riverside and companionable Travellers’ horses.

The piebald horses had snowdrop white patches. Snowdrops the comfrey that came to the Shannon meadows in May was called.

The loss of a child is a terrible thing; the loss of children (plural) is even more terrible. The loss of a community of children is devastating.

In exile though you remember your friends, their faces… Remembering them, their kindness, remembering the river, gives you fortitude and resolve…

 

Laocoön and Cassandra, priest and priestess of Troy gave their oracles and were not believed.

Laocoön tried to set the wooden horse on fire.

He threw a spear at it.

A few days after that Sunday at Smithfield someone comes to the Square Pond and shoots Big Lips’ mare Sweet Feet in the head just as she is about to have a foal. Foal comes out anyway and Big Lips starts hand-feeding it.

It is like the story of Jane Seymour and Edward VI.

‘King Henry, King Henry, I know you to be:
Pray cut my side open and find my baby.’

Then the Pound, in apparent retaliation for the violence of a Traveller family who got to a Traveller family they were feuding with, in a wooden horse, swoops.

Eighteen horses and four donkeys driven down fields to field owned by NAmA. National Asset management Agency.

Horsey’s stallion Flash hides in the osiers and escapes.

Five days to claim them. They are kept twenty-eight days. ‘Pound said it all cost thirty-eight grand.’

 

Figroll, Horsey, Kil, Fluffy, Tooler, Big Lips, Donkey Lips, Denone, Eak go to the Council Offices in Tallaght to plead, led by Skaf, a youth in his twenties, woollen hat making his eyes look troglodyte, buried. But it’s like chasing the tooth fairy. Figroll’s mother, whose medication for migraine is wearing the calcium on her teeth, rings up. The horses and donkeys are dead.

Figroll tells me that the horses from the Traveller Site at Fonthill Road—where a Traveller man with hair dyed the red of Danny Kaye had asked me one day: ‘Did you get married yet?’—were brought to Kinnegad, County Westmeath, put down, burned in the cement factory.

‘They give horse meat to feed tigers in the zoo, to dog food factories, they give the dead horses to glue factories.’

Two youths from Ballymun sit on the edge of the almost deserted Smithfield Plaza towards the end of the fair, like herons waiting in unison by the Grand Canal. Horses are confiscated at Smithfield now, that don’t have a horse passport or don’t have a microchip, so there is a samizdat horse fair on the top of Chapelizod Hill.

‘I’ll give you a thousand Euros now and the rest in Coolock.’

 

Someone rings up the Joe Duffy show to say the Scheme boys were cruel to horses and deserved the horses and donkeys being taken. The boys are convinced it was me. Identical voice.

‘Didn’t you ring up the Joe Duffy show and say we were cruelty to horses?’ Figroll accuses.

‘Two English people went to Coolock and asked to see the horses. Then the Pound came.’

Surrounded by boys, some like the wolf of Gubbio with a stud in its ear, some with a caduceus—staff of mercury—by a torched Go-Kart, I am made to feel like Gypo Nolan in John Ford’s film, who is taunted by a prostitute during the War of Independence because he doesn’t have the fare to the uSA, accepts a British award leading to the arrest of his friend Frankie mcPhillip, revealing Frankie’s whereabouts, seeks expiation in Dublin’s churches, tried in secret by his former comrades, shot.

It was no use denying I’d rung up the Joe Duffy show. I had to accept it though it wasn’t true, and go through a period of vilification.

‘Paedo. Faggot. Rat. You egg. You fuel. You did the monkey. What’s the colour of your eyes? I’ll buy you a pair of socks.’

 

Figroll gets a replacement horse, a skewbald from the Leitrim mountains with white fur like a goose’s feathers.

‘A psycho horse.’

‘He’s a spirit. Mad as a brush. Mad as a fork. Mad as a spoon.’

I feel like that horse, on the ground by the Square Pond, head tethered by many ropes held by the youths, beaten on the face with a fleecey butter-green poplar bough by Figroll until the blood runs from his face and mouth, thought to have expired, rising, standing, anticipating further blows.

Banger, a Chihuahua of a boy, hair as black as the black of a chess board, eyebrows like black sickle moons, cherry cordial lips, cheekbones scalloped like a holy water font, runs excitedly in the middle of this entertainment as a moorhen hobbles in the fields.

Banger has two bracelets of miniature ikons, one large, one smaller, dominant ikon in large one that of a Christ who looks like Tony Montano in Scarface.

‘Where did you get the bracelet?’

‘In Lourdes.’

‘When were you in Lourdes?’

‘I wasn’t. My nanny was. Where’s yours?’

Figroll has two similar bracelets. One a Gypsy woman had given him in town. ‘She only gives them to special people.’ One the Leitrim owner of the skewbald had given him for luck.

In identical magenta tracksuits, two girls smoke cigarettes on the gate, but with the look of martha and Abby Brewster, the two spinster aunts in Arsenic and the old Lace, before they poison one of their gentlemen victims with elderberry wine laced with arsenic, strychnine, cyanide.

Suddenly one of them screams.

‘He did a shit.’

Horsey emerges from behind the hawthorn bushes, carrying a stick with excrement at the end, and goes in the direction of the girls. Excrement gets on the white jackets he’s carrying. He looks to the Grand Canal for a solution.

 

The Pound strike again, confiscating the Leitrim skewbald, and that is the finish for me. ‘You were a spy from the SPCA.’

Fluffy in a hoodie jacket patterned with skulls tries to tether my bicycle to an elder tree. Figroll simultaneously tries to wrest the bicycle from me.

‘I was fond of you,’ I plead.

I want to say you and the other boys came into my life in a wooden horse.

I wanted to say I’d known a wooden horse since childhood. The Horse Fair in my town was a wooden horse in which people who were different came.

 

Thomas Omer started building the Grand Canal in 1757. One of his houses is by the twelfth lock with Deadly Nightshade on the other side of the canal. The twelfth lock was built too narrow on the Dublin side. It had to be widened. The mares and foals among the ragwort by the twelfth lock know not to eat it because of its poisonous juices.

The Grand Canal was built with gunpowder, picks, shovels, candles.

Horses used draw barges by the canal. That’s why the boys claimed in Tallaght Council Offices they had a right to own horses.

‘Have you ever heard the expression “Keep on the straight and the narrow”?’ Kil asked me one day, in Bermudas patterned with Brazil nuts, ‘It comes from the Grand Canal. The long barges were pulled by a horse on a straight and narrow path. The path had to be straight and narrow to keep the tension of the barge’

Getting across the Bog of Allen took five years.

They got to Daingean—Philipstown after Queen Mary’s Spanish husband (‘My marriage is my own affair.’)—where there was another reformatory school. I knew someone who was turned barefoot out of it.

Then the canal extended to Shannon Harbour. An extension beyond the Shannon to the town I’m from.

There was a Guinness depot there. Coffee Bradley, a Somme veteran, came down the Grand Canal in a Guinness barge, as King of the Horse Fair, like Elizabeth I sailing down the River Effra to visit Sir Walter Raleigh at Raleigh Hall, who mentioned Banks’ horse Marocca in his History of the World.

Redser Lardon’s mother used to walk an armada of cocker spaniels, Chinese pug dogs, Welsh corgis around town. She usually wore an olive and beige scarf at her neck. They lived in a Regency town house with moss coloured door, lead lights over door, foot scraper by door.

He suffered from Down syndrome.

When I used be hitchhiking outside town, close to the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes, he’d stop and talk. Always wore a belted great coat. Strawey cockscomb. Would shuffle and snort with laughter. Sometimes carried Eagle and Beano comics and would engage you in conversation about Dan Dare or Walter the Softy. Inference was that I was a bit of a Walter the Softy.

‘What goes around, comes around,’ he’d say.

When his mother died he drowned in the Grand Canal.

 

‘I liked you too,’ Figroll says—he’s in a squirrel-coloured hoodie jacket, ‘but I think there’s something weird about you.

What makes you wet the bed? Are you a steamer? Will you steam with me? I’m fast on bald men. I went with Baldy Paddy Beatley.’

Baldy Paddy Beatley let four dogs go wild in the fields.

A lurcher (greyhound/deerhound), face of a patterdale.

Whippy—cross Labrador, Staffordshire terrier, with carrion skin.

Greyhound/Irish deerhound/Saluki (Arab hunting dog), bit of Bedlington.

A dog he called a lurcher but with its fur looked like soaked breadcrumbs.

‘If they attack you you put your finger up their arse,’ Tooler had advised me.

 

‘He was bareback.’

Naked, Baldy Paddy Beatley had crow-coloured hairs all over his body, his body looked like a potato field covered with crows.

‘Baldy Paddy Beatley used box. His favourite punch was backhand. I was a whippet he said. I’m not eighteen anymore. I’ve no fucking teeth.

He said he boxed with two Knackers from Mullingar who went on to the Olympic Games. The Knackers in Mullingar stand fifty feet apart from one another and throw things at one another he said.’

Figroll flings an empty Perlenbacher bottle at me.

‘Baldy Paddy Beatley has his woolly hat pulled over his eyes. Like a real paedo. Why don’t you pull your hat over your eyes?’

 

‘It’s either in you or it isn’t. It’s a tradition. The horses are more like dogs. Come to the door in this weather.’ The snowmen in the Scheme look more like crazy banshees than snowmen. ‘They come home. The scatter-brained ones won’t.’

 

Sometimes when I wake up at night or can’t sleep it’s as if a horse comes to the door. A horse that’s been put down. A youth’s face like one of the ghosts of horses on the walls of Trois Frères. An asymmetrical henna-coloured horse like one of the horses on the walls of Lascaux. The prehistoric white horse carved on top of the Berkshire Downs at uffington. The horse presented as gift by King Oswin that Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne—whose bones were brought back to Galway by his successor Colman— immediately gave to a poor man.

Near Lindisfarne in Northumberland there’s a poppy field.

An autobiography-writing horse like the disabled Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty.

‘Boys you see think a horse is like a steam engine or a thrashing machine, and can go as long and as fast as they please; they never think that a pony can get tired, or have feelings.’

William Banks’ gelding Marocco who was possibly burned by the Inquisition with his master in Rome or Lisbon.

The kissing and counting mare Samuel Pepys saw at Bartholomew Fair on a September day on which he was later invited by a wench to her room in Shoe Lane.

The horse on which the actor Edmund Keane, as a boy, dressed as a monkey, used do somersaults on at Bartholomew Fair and fell off, damaging both legs.

Begun in the early middle Ages Bartholomew Fair in West Smithfield in London— Ruffians Hall—where men fought with sword and buckler for twelve pence, was suppressed by the Victorians on the grounds of debauchery.

‘… it causeth swearing, it causeth swaggering, it causeth snuffling and snarling, and now and then a hurt… Hide, and be hidden; ride and be ridden, says the vapour of experience…’

When Ben Jonson’s work failed elsewhere he turned to the expensive, private theatres where only young boys acted.

A wooden horse comes to my door—a youth in a hoodie jacket with hair over his mouth the colour of Biblical dates who turned into a wooden horse.

 

Wreathes by the Grand Canal change from white to electric blue, from poly-colours to white and scarlet, scarlet of blood, scarlet of poinsettia wreathes of New Orleans.

A girl with geyser hair-style, crimson on top, cerulean cord around her hair, kneels by the Grand Canal and weeps for her brother as the sun sets.

I take her hand.

‘It was just a stupid accident.’

‘I’ve suffered too,’ I tell her. ‘I know what it’s like.’

 

‘There are no cash machines in graveyards,’ says mad mickey Teeling, ‘Spend what you have now.’

Mad Mickey Teeling wears a cap covered in badges—martin Doherty killed Ardoyne Belfast, James Larkin, James Connolly, Che Guevara, nine Hunger Strikers (‘one missing,’ he apologizes), the Irish colours and also a 1960 halfpenny on it.

He has a Central Asia shepherd dog called Eric.

‘You get ten years for robbing a shop,’ he complains, ‘but paedophiles only get two. The priest who baptised me and married my parents molested children.’

 

The horses were their imagination, the horses were narratives, the horses were anthropoid like Dumbo the flying elephant and his one friend Timothy mouse, or like Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty, Ginger, Merrylegs.

‘Can you remember Black Beauty’s friend’s name?’ Figroll asked me one day.

He hadn’t read the book but he’d seen the film where Black Beauty narrated his story voice-over.

‘Ginger? merrylegs?’

 

Hash dipped in acid, hash with melted down glass dipped in diesel, Kepplers cider, house music.

Monksfield after ten when the off-licences close, the guards coming looking for them.

Dumbo was taunted by the other elephants because he had big ears. Mrs Jumbo, his mother, was locked up as a mad woman for defending her child. Dumbo was forced to be a circus clown who has to fall into a vat of pie filling. With the help of his friend Timothy mouse and some crows Dumbo discovered his ability to fly because of his big ears and he became a circus celebrity.

There was a circus in the field opposite the Jensen Hotel and Shell garage.

They wanted Mad Mickey Teeling’s Central Asian shepherd dog when he brought it to the circus grounds.

‘He can be a cunt. You’d want to see the hiding I gave him,’ he told them to put them off.

A man with a belly like a plum pudding with cream on top, asked the boys to distribute circus leaflets with the motorbike globe of death on them, and when their task was done, as the circus lights turned from yellow to red to aquamarine to purple, as the jungle drums beat within the tent, had sex with some of them.

Figroll smoked three joints one morning, took twenty-four-hour pills, drank a bottle of Huzzar vodka, stole a scarlet, white and yellow Honda CO 2I.

‘A horse must have jumped on it.’

Set it on fire in Brennan’s Field.

‘I was on a buzz. I pissed on my mobile. You could see the piss on the screen.’

In Ireland in the nineteenth century it was believed that the song thrush built its nest cup of leaves and twigs, lined with mud, low in trees and bushes so the fairies in their houses in the grass could enjoy their music. But this did not prevent Figroll from telling a song thrush in Brennan’s Field, ‘Shut your fucking mouth.’

‘Someone snitched on me. I was crying when I got to the police station. It takes a big man to say sorry and Figroll says sorry.’

Pinocchio’s nose grew longer when he lied. The moustaches or lip growth on boys in Oberstown Boys Centre where Figroll was sent told you they’d committed a crime. Figroll joined the boys with faces pale as mousetrap cheese, youths you would formerly see at Smithfield Horse Fair; anxious to sell horses, with a half-starved look, knifed cheeks.

‘Now farewell to the Faire…’

 

City of exile, city of loneliness.

I live in a world without stories. Without friends.

Diogenes of Greece walked the street with a lighted candle looking for a human being.

I feel like him.

Seven doomed horses and a donkey from mayo sequestering themselves under the trees, at different angles from one another, nosing one another.

There’s something very human about horses.

They tried to stop my heart the way they stop horses’ hearts, giving them an injection.

‘Love is boat that swim for most, ‘ says Bo, in a leopard spot top with bare midriff, before she leaves for moyross, Limerick, holding a baby like a marshmallow hedgehog in a fluffy jacket.

‘What leave ye to your father, King Henry, my son?
The keys of old Ireland, and all that’s therein…’