Horses of the Camargue (prose poem)

I have a vision of the Camargue, of salt marshes stretching to the horizon baked by the Provencal sun or scoured by the wicked mistral in winter. Eagles and hawks soar high above and muskrats swim along the little canals. Long lines of salt mountains, the raised nests of the pink flamingo interpose the summer landscape of rice paddies and cornfields. The flamingo strut on their stilt like legs, long necks snaking into the water to sift the muddy plankton through their bills. Black bulls and white horses graze.

It is these horses that fascinate me most, these fabled horses of the Camargue. High stepping over the saltpans, they bend their big square heads to graze on samphire. Their large expressive eyes seem resigned to extreme weather and coarse sparse food. They give me the impression of the archetypal horse, one that has run wild over the earth for thousands of years. Descend into the caves at Lascaux and their ancestors are depicted on the walls. They are not the most elegant these Camargue horses: short and sturdy, wide and deep chested, adapted to their harsh surroundings. It is when they gather together in herds or splash through the water, stallions, mares and foals in one pure gallop, long tails and white manes flying, their unshod hooves taking the marshes in their stride...it is then they are beautiful. Push the imagination a little further and it isn’t difficult in this mysterious windswept terrain, to believe in Pegasus the winged horse or to couple these horses, which thrive in salt water with the tiny creature, the sea horse that swims in the sea.