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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, February 10, 2016.
About this Poem 

“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.”
—Chase Twichell

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.

Copyright © 2016 Chase Twichell. Used with permission of the author.

Chase Twichell

Chase Twichell

Born in 1950, Chase Twichell is the author of several books of poetry, including Horses Where the Answers Should Have Been: New and Selected Poems.

by this poet

poem
Don't tell me we're not like plants,
sending out a shoot when we need to,
or spikes, poisonous oils, or flowers.

Come to me but only when I say,
that's how plants announce

the rules of propagation.
Even children know this. You can
see them imitating all the moves

with their bright plastic toys.
So that
poem
When fed into the crude, imaginary
machine we call the memory,

the brain's hard pictures
slide into the suggestive
waters of the counterfeit.

They come out glamorous and simplified,

even the violent ones,
even the ones that are snapshots of fear.

Maybe those costumed,
clung-to fragments are the first wedge
2
poem
I want you with me, and yet you are the end
of my privacy. Do you see how these rooms
have become public? How we glance to see if—
who? Who did you imagine?
Surely we're not here alone, you and I.

I've been wandering
where the cold tracks of language
collapse into cinders, unburnable trash.
Beyond that, all I