Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Rik George writes

Waiting for Unicorns

One night when lilacs bloomed in the yard 

I slipped from bed and opened the window. 
The cold breeze chilled my cheeks and nose. 
The moon tarnished the yard with silver. 
The stars had chewed a thousand moth holes 
in the night’s threadbare opera cape. 
Beside me, the clock climbed hand over hand 
from nine to midnight. My books had promised 
unicorns would come to graze 
on lilacs blooming in May moonlight. 
The clock hands slid from midnight to five. 
My heart and body were ice by dawn. 
I saw no unicorns. At noon 
I cut the lilacs to fill a vase.
Betye Saar, To Catch a Unicorn, 1960. Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles, California.
To Catch a Unicorn -- Betye Saar

1 comment:

  1. After Ktesías returned to Knidos, a Greek city in modern Turkey, in 398 BCE after a long sojourn as physician to shah Artaxerxes II, he wrote “Indica,” in which he made the oldest extant description of a unicorn: "There are in India certain wild asses which are as large as horses, and larger. Their bodies are white, their heads dark red, and their eyes dark blue. They have a horn on the forehead which is about a foot and a half in length. The dust filed from this horn is administered in a potion as a protection against deadly drugs. The base of this horn, for some two hands'-breadth above the brow, is pure white; the upper part is sharp and of a vivid crimson; and the remainder, or middle portion, is black. Those who drink out of these horns, made into drinking vessels, are not subject, they say, to convulsions or to the holy disease [epilepsy]. Indeed, they are immune even to poisons if either before or after swallowing such, they drink wine, water, or anything else from these beakers….. The animal is exceedingly swift and powerful, so that no creature, neither the horse nor any other, can overtake it." In the 4th century Ágios Basíleios o Mégas (St. Basil the Great), bishop of Caesarea Mazaca (modern Kayseri, Turkey) said it was “extremely gentle, which the hunters are unable to capture because of its great strength…. But observe the ruse by which the huntsmen take it. They lead forth a young virgin, pure and chaste, to whom, when the animal sees her, he approaches, throwing himself upon her. Then the girl offers him her breasts, and the animal begins to suck the breasts of the maiden and to conduct himself familiarly with her. Then the girl, while sitting quietly, reaches forth her hand and grasps the horn on the animal's brow, and at this point the huntsmen come up and take the beast and go away with him to the king.”


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