Author: Janice D. Soderling

Centaurs gallop in the dew-wet night,
in our deepest knowledge, in our forgetfulness:
their hooves never pity the trampled grass,
but their hands will remember all they touch.

Now we wake on the other side of night
to another kind of knowledge, a new forgetfulness:
our clocks never pity the passing hours.

We leave an ancient myth,
put on our shoes,
touch things like doors, tools, spoons,
with fingers that remember taut, warm skin.

“Centaurs” is Janice D. Soderling’s translation of her poem “Kentaurer” published in Swedish in Medusa, volume 6, issue 1, 1985.

To blue-bottomed pools
transparent as morning
goes the unicorn to drink.
Lapping sweet waters forced
from the fountainhead beneath my heart.
Pink tongue fluttering like a moth.
Drink deeply, deeply.

Oh, there were nights I rode the unicorn bareback,
galloping through the darkness to the rim of sun.
His skin, rose-petal-soft, against the inside of my thighs.
His spiraled horn pulsing under my fingers like a heart.
My laughter beating like cymbals.
My hair cascading down my back.
Words cascading from my swollen mouth
like rain from swollen clouds.
We listened and heard the clicking hooves
of past and future journeys.

I have lost my tortoiseshell comb.
I have lost my silver rings and clanging cymbals.
I have sealed my mouth with the last word.
My hands have changed to cobras.
Their delicate tongues flutter like memory.

The rider limps afoot, far in the distance;
humming off-key, rearranging her rags,
combing her hair with her fingers.
That old crone, that old witch,
drinking the brew that boils up beneath my heart.
Drinking deeply.