Urgent Message from the Captain of the Unicorn Hunters by John Wall Barger

Release them. Those sealed in your attics.
Those chained in your barns. Those on the nightmare yokes.
Those heads on your walls. This is our fault.
We taught you to torture the unicorn.
That it biteth like a lion & kicketh like a horse.
That it has no fear of iron weapons.
That unicorn-leather boots ensure sound legs
& protection from plague. That unicorn liver (with a paste
of egg yolk) heals leprosy. That its tusk,
ground to dust, makes men hard. Forget all that.
Taxidermists, lay down your saws.
Keep off, ye farmers of dreams & horns.
We have done enough. Baiting them with our virgins.
Cutting the heads off the calves & their mothers.
Planting birthday candles in their eyes.
Fortune-telling with their gizzards.
Tossing their balls to the dogs. —Enough!
Free them to bathe in our rainbows.
Let them loose in their fields of sorrow.
Enough have they tholed. And you’ll have to forgive:
nothing that’s happened as yet
has prepared me for this. I have taken us too far
off course. Abominations, treason!
It’s up to them now, our lot.
First, let them go. And then we wait.


Copyright © John Wall Barger. Originally published in Prairie Fire (2014).


John Wall Barger’s poems have appeared in Vallum, The Fiddlehead, EVENT, CV2, Grain, American Poetry Review, Poetry Ireland Review, and Best of the Best Canadian Poetry. His poem, “Smog Mother,” was co-winner of The Malahat Review’s 2017 Long Poem Prize. His fourth book is The Mean Game (Palimpsest Press, 2019).

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