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Friday
Oct302009

Catherine Owen

Catherine Owen has published six collections of poetry, the most recent called Frenzy (Anvil Press, Vancouver BC, 2009). Her work has appeared in international literary magazines, been translated into three languages and received multiple nominations, including the BC Book Prize and the Air Canada/CBC award. Freaks is a poem from a manuscript in progress titled Truss.

 

Freaks

 

On the subway over the Hudson, an armless man puffs

into the harmonica slotted into its yoke

around his neck and, pitying his lack of prosthetics,

 

passengers drop pennies in his Starbucks cup, stare

out the graffitied glass at the black

wake behind him. There is no longer any fanfare

 

for his strangeness, his Darwinian

predicament. Once Barnum and his freaks

took to the rails, a herd of wonders clacking from Mississauga

 

to Minneapolis, fats, dwarfs, giants, tribes, Jojo

the Dogface Boy, Admiral Dot the midget, Jane

Devere whose 14 inch beard flowed darkly over her corset, three

 

rings of lyphodermal limbs, double vaginas & ectrodactylic

hands, posing in Eisenmann's faux parlors on the Bowery

wearing real furs, taking tea with Queen Victoria whose boudoir

 

flaunted its own pickled punk amid snuff and fans.

We have laser machines, wax and scalpels so that

smooth, proportioned, we can attain to the level of technicians,

 

programmers, torn from the noble pantheon of curiosities,

birthed into the invisible world of acceptance.

O why didn't they let me live in another century, stay

 

bird woman, alligator girl, with my extra set of molars, that

one incisor that stuck out from my palate, waiting

for its untenable shell. How I would have boxed with Zip

 

the Pinhead, quaffed one back with Lobster Man, lolled about

with Corpulent Blanche, then every night the gilded

applause as I parade in my cage, sweet princess of feathers,

 

while now, extracted, braced, perfected, I am lonely.

 

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