The Chariot

For George Papaellinas (after the Rider-Waite deck)

I’m about to burst at the seams.
My torso

on the verge of bifurcation
with each arm yanked 

by a different horse. To hold them
in synch, a practical 

impossibility. Rabid steeds
repelling like absolute opposites. 

My mind is scarred by the image
of a weeping mother. What 

of the girl whose beauty
put me in this tortuous place? 

Forget my initial foolishness.
Here’s this rite’s wisdom: 

the armour is mere weight
quite futile when I fall 

from the carriage. I have to be a magician
to survive this transitory hell 

or even believe
in the aura of the lunar insignia 

engraved on my shoulder-guards. How
these horses shriek

and gallop. I would spear them
with my wand if I intended 

sadism rather than stamina. Perhaps
I do. But shouldn’t dire masculinity 

include courage as well
as cruelty, if I’m an adolescent 

trying to ride both parental love
and inner strength? No wonder 

I’m pain personified
rather than a careful sportsman in charge

of these manic animals. I’m not
in control. Don’t be fooled 

by the romance of my myth. I may be a warrior,
but my fiercest foe

my own physique and psyche. See
the wheels turning – you think – oh so gently? 

They are sawing off my legs.
I may seem robust but my sinews

are about to tear apart.
Do I mind? I suppose I must. But 

I’ve made my choice. Suicide
just a symptom of my heroism. Why 

feel anything for the charioteer
other than remorse? See, somewhere 

in the juggernaut’s dust, soon
my own corpse, dragged, skinned. 

Ali Alizadeh

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