Tema StaufferWhite Horse, Riverview, Florida, 2007 (photograph)

It’s actually more common  
                              than you think
, they said of Florida, 
               the underground, the passing
of shoulders between hands,  
                              that lean muscle cleaved   
                                             from scapula, fresh in its red,
and when Stephens had found him there, 
               the head in tact, 
               we turned our eyes to such massacre.

Who calmed him before
               the knife bore inward?    

                                                            Or, was there a calming—  
                              the turning down of velvet  
                              toward grass.   
                                             This was a professional.

In the Atlantic, certain species
               of mollusk
               are known to store their feeding,  
                              their taking of   
                                             poisons from the bodies
               of hydra and projecting outward
               their sting—the absorption of power surfacing  
                              through skin, as if the self had always built
its weaponry from
the trampling of others.

Did the butchers feel within
               Phedras that taut trigger, that scorching   
                                             of tensed thigh as it buckled
                              under the weight of legend,  
                              the chestnut iris wavering, the men thinking
               that as they scored
               his sides they too might become  
                              something of an  
                              embodied force, shifting in their mortality. 

               in all of its detail, is never finite.

In the field, what creature’s ears listened
               as they parted bone, sparing the neck, the torso
                              vacant. Whose eyes saw as the golden threads dispelled   

                              their luster.


Clare Paniccia