Downstairs in Dreams
Trying to fall asleep,
I count down stone steps
into the dark, and there they are:
Centaurs, half in and half out
of the woods, hindquarters still trees.
Downstairs in dreams I look
directly into their man-eyes,
which are opaque, absorbent.
They don’t speak. I don’t speak
of the long yellow teeth tearing off
the little dress—just for a glimpse,
no harm done. No hands, no harm.
Their hindquarters still trees.
No words to explain or contain it.
You can’t translate something
that was never in a language
in the first place.
Copyright © 2016 Chase Twichell. Used with permission of the author.
“My father was a Latin teacher, so at bedtime we got the classic myths and stories from The Odyssey, including a variety of creatures half-human, half-animal. Centaurs in particular fascinated me because they were both horses (longed for) and mature male sexual beings (feared). The poem cages childhood trauma in myth and dream, which acknowledges and preserves the fact of it but keeps it safely remote and unreal.”