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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
A kid said you could chew road tar
if you got it before it cooled,
black globule with a just-forming skin.
He said it was better than cigarettes.
He said he had a taste for it.

On the same road, a squirrel
was doing the Watusi to free itself
from its crushed hindquarters.
A man on a bicycle stomped on
poem
Above the blond prairies,
the sky is all color and water.
The future moves
from one part to another.

This is a note
in a tender sequence
that I call love,
trying to include you,
but it is not love.
It is music, or time.

To explain the pleasure I take
in loneliness, I speak of privacy,
but privacy is the house
poem
Whenever I look
out at the snowy
mountains at this hour
and speak directly
into the ear of the sky,
it's you I'm thinking of.
You're like the spirits
the children invent
to inhabit the stuffed horse
and the doll.
I don't know who hears me.
I don't know who speaks
when the horse speaks.