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Greg Wrenn
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Centaur

1.

Smelling manure, the humid
sharpness of rainforests
beyond those fields,

I got off the bus.
For three days, I’d fasted on deviled
eggs and honey, sipped

turmeric water—just following
orders, my orthopedic
surgeon’s. I’d ripped out

his ad from the back
of an almanac,
dog-eared on top of a friend’s toilet:

Do You Believe In CENTAURS?

You can rid yourself of burdensome footed legs: Dr. D. Angel of
Brazil now offering a revolutionary surgical procedure to become a centaur. Be 0 & 1, sleek & wise velocity. Risk-free.

It spoke to me, as a dubious relic
seems more numinous
once taken from its locked
case and placed in one’s palm.

 

2. Intake Form: Part D

           Always felt dead
                      from the navel down.
Some man touched me,

warped my bones.

           Never could run

the way the other boys did, those lithe
cheetahs—flying past the dugouts,
the fence feathered with creeper.
My feet splayed out like an emperor

penguin’s when I ran— I’d will them into straightness then turn around

                                                                  and still see fresh
                                                                  angled prints in the sand. I pray for my hips

                                 to be hoisted from my body into the heavens,

hot engine lifted
           from propped-open hood.

I see cordless, immaculate sanders  
                      working my ilia—

feel invisible, benevolent
chiropractors turning,
tuning my ischia, each grateful bone,

           shifting my kneecaps inward:

two pneumatic
quahogs nudged closer
in the mud.

 

3. Previous Interventions

To reawaken waist to feet,
I’ve tried Utthita Trikonasana,
Rolfing sessions, psychedelic

meditation retreats, pure stretches
of mindfulness spiked
with extracts of Yucatán moss.

—All a bunch
of New Age baloney.
I considered binding my feet

into alignment or having
the bones of my lower
limbs broken, re-set.

—Too Geisha-like,
too Golgothan.
I let many men

culled from cyberspace
crush and slide into me,
choke the backs of my thighs

like chicken throats, graze
and bite, grip my arches
but never flip the switch.

Just this once let me.

 

4.

I want to fly across the land.

I said that to myself three times
as I rapped on the door
with the greasy horsehead knocker.

The intercom cracked.
A long tone. A nurse’s voice
that wavered
then gained strength.

“Sit on the cushion
in the center of the stables.
Close your eyes.
Your left lid will twitch
when your animal whinnies
and puffs its arrows of longing.”

 

5.

           motes curling in barnlight
                      cushion really low stool
                                 in middle of long corridor
           fringed with toys hay
                      I plunked down there
stalls seemed to rattle breathe as single
                                 mammal collared in zirconia

                      promised grace wasn’t shot
                                 bow never even strung arrows
                                            never whittled feathered
                      had I tapped unwitting interspecies
                                            morse code LET NO ONE
                                 LOVE ME I want to be
           chosen/pierced to go home

 

Dr. Angel shook me.
Then shook my hand.
“Do not despair, Marquoose.
They can be . . .
stoo-burn.”

He pointed at Mister,
whose black eyes shone
as if peering into
an incision. “He wants you.
I hear him crying out your name.”

 

6.

                                 Holding the mask
                      over my mouth, the doctor counted down
                                            in Portuguese with a Tuscan

                      accent. I could hear
                                 the horse being rolled in
                      on a stainless steel cart. No doubt

           he was tipped over
on one side, on a bed of dry ice,
                                 fine Sharpie lines drawn
                      along his lower neck.

                                            When I awoke, strange
                      birds were grooming themselves on the windowsill.
                                 No saliva in my mouth.

I heard water running continuously.

           An enormous drum of pain
persisted below my stomach, pinch,

                                            pull, pound.
                                 Stretch, fitful fusion, incubus knock.

                      Dawn agony teething.

                      When I first stood up,
I was a palsied crab, dazed.
                                 Skittering, scraping.

           Hot flurry of spindles
                      seeking ground. Ratchet, legs of
                                                       milk teeth, what moves
                                            us on, gravity then

           grave. In the mirror I saw
                      my navel was nearly stretched down
                                 to where my brown coat began.
           Skin the color of dry pomegranate
                                            pulsed at the suture.

           I began to emit more heat than ever.
                                            I shook sporadically.

 

7. Post-Op

Once, only once,
I let him ride me
bareback. It was near sunset,

late, late November.
He had completed his day’s work.
We were in the kitchen,

and he brushed away
a housefly from the veins
along my numb legs.

I kneeled a bit, he understood.
He relaxed into my back.
He held onto my neck,

his calves against my flanks,
and I started for the field,
for what felt like an ocean.

There’s a trust
that won’t throw us.
No bridle, no reins.

 

© 2010 Beloit Poetry Journal       Design by Jim Parmenter