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.
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.