...occasional postcards from Washington, D.C. writer Sandra Beasley...
August 25, 2012
A whimsical posting of this photo on my Facebook account sparked a discussion of the 1982 animated movie, The Last Unicorn, which (along with Peter S. Beagle's wonderful book) made a serious impact on my young creative consciousness. So, resisting shame, here is my one of first published poems--which appeared in my 1998 undergraduate thesis at the University of Virginia and won a contest sponsored by Charlottesville's writing center and now-defunct literary magazine, Streetlight. I got to drive to Harrisonburg and record this winning poem, which was played on public radio for the subsequent month. They backed it with a Joni Mitchell song.
For Peter S. Beagle
Lloyd never calls them unicorns, no. They don’t grow those in Kentucky. Sure—
four feet, one horn—but they bleat just like goats, they still bleed at the gums
when they get into the barb wire. Not like the horn is some shining gold either,
sparkling with magic: just dim white bone, and an occasional crust of dung. Still,
one comes almost every spring to the Mathers’ farm: the veined head
emerging from the womb of a perplexed mother, that single deformed horn
which makes Lloyd wipe his brow nervously with a loose blue rag, and take
his whiskey break at one in the afternoon. All the other kids get names like
Billy, or Janey: but this one will be called Nuisance, or perhaps Dammit,
and will crop the back pasture for a few lonely years. It just ain’t natural,
Lloyd complains to his wife. Nobody wants that one. Molly nods, promising
to mix a better feed grain this year, to add eggshells for calcium and clover
for luck. Yet in the evenings, after Lloyd has laid his overalls over the rocking chair
and snores hard in the birch bed, she likes to sneak out in her white nightgown.
Stepping lightly in the tractored dirt, leaving no more than a single smudged toeprint,
she eases open the barn door and goes to where those goats are, the strange ones
nobody wants. They come to her handfuls of alfalfa, gently butting and jousting
each other, and she calls them by their real names: Amalthea, and Marek, Lir
looping his horn through the sash on her gown, pulling apart the loose bow;
Fortuna, always wary of dragons as she chews a lace hem but skitters from touch.
If this were a fairy tale, and Molly a young maiden, she would braid a bridle of golden
wheat and be gone by morning. But this is Kentucky. Molly will pick the last strands
of hay from her hair long before Lloyd wakes up; and the sun will rise a red bull,