The Mystic Capture of the Unicorn

Sara Biggs Chaney

If I am long of limb and white of neck.
If, absent this terror sweat,
I might be mistaken for statuary.
If, dead, I will be undefiled.
As Godhead is most like a lantern
when at last she stops struggling.
As we know her best—
by the brocade on her collar.
The man who keeps me wears a hood,
but nothing about him hides.
Not the trench of his breath or prick of his looking.
How his fingers can’t stop, even when he wills them.
He has pliers and hacksaw. He hurts me in ice water rushes.
He brings me back with slaps, nickel tunes on the Victrola.
He asks me to pretend the fences out of existence.
He asks me to hold a teddy bear. He asks me to hold a laurel tree.
Arch your back. You’ll grow larger than your circumstances.
The majesty of your horn will rival the scales of justice.
He buries me in sand and imagines me an artifact.
He digs me up again, collects the dust of ages from my waistband.
He asks me to pretend I am more than pain.
He turns my hooves to cups and pours the salt to overflowing.
I can only know this chapter in third person: “In which her captor takes her for a walk in the garden.” He takes his hacksaw to her outer hoof. Her tendons weep blood through the peonies. He asks her to dip her muzzle in sweet grass, to flaunt her horn in the low light. She arcs one bleeding leg. A painted pony on the carousel.
What follows— lucid dream— sleight of hand—
The garden becomes a mountain becomes a sled path.
She is sliding downward, four hooves on a silver saucepan.
she is high flyer on a moon disc descending
She takes the curves like a pro. He cannot keep her anymore.
When we found our God in a tree,
we set ourselves on her.
We came all ways, with all manner of spear.
We made a pinwheel of her sanctity.
We were brutal in our foppishness.
Our savage preening.
We forgot the air under our feet.
that we were not meant for such heights.


NOTE: The title of this poem is taken from the title of one of the Unicorn Tapestries, one of the most famous surviving works of art from the middle ages. The tapestries were long displayed at the Cloisters before being acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

SARA BIGGS CHANEY received her Ph.D. in English in 2008 and currently teaches first-year writing in Dartmouth’s Institute for Writing and Rhetoric. Her first chapbook, Precipice Fruit, was released by ELJ Publications in October, 2013 and her second chapbook, Ann Coulter’s Letter to the Young Poets, is forthcoming from dancing girl press this summer. Sara’s poems and flash fictions have recently appeared (or will soon appear) in Menacing Hedge, Whiskeypaper, The Finery, Word Riot, Dr. T.J. Eckleburg Review and other places. You can catch up with Sara at her blog: