This blog's poems are from my published poetry book Star Steeds and Other Dreams: The Collected Poems (CFZ Press: Bideford, 2009) and are © Dr Karl P.N. Shuker, 2009. Except for author-credited review purposes, it is strictly forbidden to reproduce any of these poems elsewhere, either in part or in entirety, by any means, without my written permission.

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Thursday, 10 March 2011


Fantasy horses – such as unicorns, flying horses, and star steeds – have always held a particular fascination for me. So here is one of several variations by me upon this exotic equine theme – the thunder horse, which features in the traditional legends of North America’s Sioux tribe. Interestingly, during the 19th Century the Sioux showed various scientists some huge bones said to be from thunder horses, and when these were examined they were found to be the fossilised remains of a hitherto-undescribed form of gigantic prehistoric mammal distantly related to rhinoceroses, which scientists duly christened Brontotherium – the thunder beast.


Dark lie the skies, as an ebony ocean
Rippling with cloudlets of surf-showered foam,
Lashed by the whipcords of storm-harnessed lightning,
Raking the heavens with fiery combs,

Savagely striking like flame-spitting cobras
Flicking their tongues through the vapours of Night,
Streaking through Space like a phalanx of dragons –
Melting the candlewax stars in their flight.

And as the skies part their dark, scorching curtains
Lit by the flickering shadows of fire,
Out from the flames rears a black steed of thunder,
Phoenix-wise born from a burnishing pyre –

Eyes blazing fiercely like crimson infernos,
Flashing like meteors bolting through Space,
Flames roaring loudly through dark velvet nostrils,
Framing with fire his illustrious face –

Streaming to Earth like a star cast from Heaven,
Wingtips alight with vermillion plumes,
Tail tossing high, now a flickering candle
Burning a trail through the smouldering gloom.

And as he lands on a grey, brooding mountain,
Mane ruffling far like a meadow of fire,
Thunder is borne from his deafening hoof-beats,
Echoing far like a vast booming choir.

Clashing in Space, these celestial cymbals
Loudly resound through the battle-torn skies,
Shredded and shattered by arrows of lightning
Shooting like flames from the thunder gods’ eyes –

Gazing to Earth as their mighty steed races
Far ‘cross the mountains in glorious flight,
Hooves ringing far, as the star on his forehead
Slashes the heavens with sabres of light.

Onward he surges, through hillside and valley,
Singeing the treetops with each fiery roar,
Vomiting flames like a spurting volcano
Booming with menace from skyline to shore.

Yet as he glows like a lava-lit furnace
Far through the sequin-sewn shades of the night,
Evening flits softly from purple-hued heavens,
Bidding farewell as she passes from sight,

Leaving the skies now as slumbering Morning
Shakes off her rose-petal blankets of sleep,
Soon to ascend through the clouds, soft and fleecy –
Frolicking gaily like clusters of sheep –

Bearing the sun like a glistening globule
Dripping its molten aurorae through Space,
Hanging it deftly from Heaven’s bright archway,
Lighting in splendour her shimmering face.

And as she smiles in the sun’s golden mirror,
Thunderclouds wilt, sinking downwards to die,
Blown from the heavens by Morning’s gay laughter,
Nothing remains but a soft lonely sigh.

Now, far below, like an ebony shadow,
Rising on pinions emblazoned with fire,
Swiftly their stallion soars through the heavens,
Upwards once more to his ultimate pyre,

Swiftly approaching the sun’s bright corona –
Hung like a burnishing nimbus in Space –
Nearer and nearer, till wingtip and halo
Melt into one ‘midst the heaven’s warm face.

Gone is the steed of the storm cloud and thunder –
Far past the dawn’s bright eruption of light –
Lost in the radiant sun’s incandescence
Borne through the clouds in its luminous flight.

Yet if the thunder gods e’er should roar loudly
Far through the heavens of some future night,
Then would he rise in a great conflagration,
Streaming on pinions of flame-feathered light,

Scorching through Space like a blazing colossus,
Tail curving high like a smouldering lyre,
Spraying with flames this caliginous shadow –
Borne into life by the spirit of fire.


  1. This's a weird one for me Karl because as I started to read it I found meself distracted by a few quaint archaicisms in there which kind of set me off try'n'o recall various Lakeland Poet stuff it was reminiscent of and even a few of the more draggy lines of some old fashioned Homer translations.

    By the second certainly the third verse though I kind of got sucked into the mounting electrically charged tsunamic exhiliration you yourself seemed to be gettin' out of unleashing your language.

    There were a few dips in there possibly by design as you allowed your sensible more cerebral scientific side of yourself to impede or stutter the flow of your less rational more visceral wild side.

    But by the time I read it through a second time and this's the part I found weird these glitches seemed far less pronounced as if maybe I was gettin' more of the hang of y'u' own inner artistic rhythm an' sense of where you're comin' from or/and goin' with this.

    Put it this way if y'had t'choose between bein' either a commercially successful science writer or a commercially successful poet I suspect there'd be a tweaky bit of a tussle.

    1. I was about 20 years old when I wrote this poem, and it was like a kind of stream of consciousness, letting the passion and dramatic visual imagery of the subject just pour forth in the words that came into my mind. And yes, who knows? Had my poems been published way back then and had been successful, it is quite possible that I would never have turned to science writing but would have continued along the pathway of my poetry, as that had begun before my science writing.


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