Recurring dreams of my centauroid family: Centaur Ranch 1982/2/26, Silky in Town 83/12/24, To the Lighthouse 84/10/16, by Chris Wayan
People tell me I have power. Intrigues some, scares some, but they all feel it--especially psychics, of course. But I still can't use it--someone goes on strike. I can write and paint now, I beat those inner critics--but I'm still forbidden to profit from it! Write, but not live off it; paint, but not sell. The songs stay on tape, the prints under the bed. Have I really changed? Free to feel and think, but not to change people, not to get involved with anyone, not to... lead.
So I scrawl "FACE MY POWER TONIGHT" in my dream journal, lay the pen across the open page, right by the bed, and tune myself to the all-night channel--Channel One.
I'm on a ranch, Centaur Ranch, in Idaho, between two spurs of the Sawtooth Mountains. Late summer: dusty long-needle pines, aspens chartreusing up the peaksides, not yellow yet. The master of the ranch is famed as a horseman--literally. He is a Centaur. The first open visitor from the other world in generations! He'd heard rumors of a great change in our world, and he came to test what he'd heard: "America promises equal rights!" He alone. I wondered about it. Did he send back a message? But he stayed.
I saw him only once--my head jerked round as if roped, I gasped and shook--such energy, magnetism.
This man--no, no man--is a leader who could smash our world, or heal it. But... he won't use his power.
He's wild. The human herd he could so easily lead would pen him with responsibilities.
The day I came, he quarreled with his wife, and went up to the Wild alone. And he won't come out.
His wife, his son, his friends hike into far valleys, lake cirques, and wait--trying to reach him... reach his hiding place, but, too (and harder) reach his mind, which is set. He sees no plot to break him--it's an attitude, one all beings comfortably simply and singly human take for granted, like language. No, he won't come back... not til they go past their hurt--and re-evaluate.
"You're not bigots. You accept me as human--when I act human. And I'll come back when you accept my horse actions too. Oh you find them charming sometimes--maybe kinky!--but you treat that side of me, me, like a huge pet attached to a Man. My horse nature is no more and no less animal than my human nature. Browse, run, fuck in the fields, are the actions of a person to me, just as build, cook, joke are.
When you stop playing magician in your heads, sawing me in two, I may come back."
The Wife fears to push him deeper in by seeking him. "He'll return when he's ready." She's now Queen of the Ranch with the Centaur gone. Competent, but jittery: "I'm learning the basics; in a crisis I'll be over my head."
His Son, humanformed, is the most determined searcher. Tall, Idaho-innocent, blueskyeyed, in the white hat of Western myth. And now he is... me!
My mother fears for my life on my Quest. "Your father thinks we're out to cage him. He'll kill in self-defense." Her worry feels real as she speaks, but later I wonder. Does she want him not to be found? Maybe she's starting to enjoy power, no, not power exactly, for her self-doubt's too intense, but the opportunity to learn, to grow outside his magnetic shadow. Would she go that far, make her son fear his father falsely? Not consciously, but... I wonder.
A high green pond in summer. I, Son, swimming, white leather on the grass-pooled, glacier-polished granite shore. A rustle in the woods, and ominous music swells on the soundtrack--but no one attacks.
I ride a puffing 1890s train. It slogs up through a railway cut, a perfect place for an ambush--and the Centaur took few supplies. He might just raid us. He hates such one-track machines. We sense his shadow, and the moustache man says "Thought I heard a rifle bolt click." We scan the bank. "Is that the barrel shining? There, atop the cut, under that low cedar branch?" Moustache pulls a derringer.
But no one attacks.
Pines stark, greenblack on the snow of early winter... poplars are fishboned against the haze-flattened sky.
I, the Blue Eyed Son, lean by a low fire... old red embers. I'm at the end of the road. Start of the world, if you come the other way, and I hope he does. But I don't hope much.
Up comes Ma in a high-axle buggy, a miniature Conestoga drawn by a lone black mare, thin as a deer, with a sleek secret wild air. She's the dark horse in this game: for unknown to most, she is my sister: Centaur's child!
The Ranch Queen drives her own daughter before her! Her horse-child's sense of style and drama (and insecurity) is so much like Ma's that every drive is a duet of whipcrack flourishes, leaps over gulches... all playful, just for show. But her body favors her father--not only in form, but in feeling. The playing, touching, grooming, petting she loves, would die without, is as alien to her mother's posing as pissing in the snow.
And like Horse or Centaur, touch meant more than that, so much, so soon. She is the Centaur's lover--and mine.
We went to the same school, a one roomer. When I was twelve and Silky was seven (her nickname's from the Scottish ballad about the shapechanger--she loved the image, wanting (I think) to feel she might find that power, and, someday, have hands), we had Sex Ed--the state law changed to local option and our teacher insisted on it. I wonder now if Miss D----- (I don't want her in trouble, during this backlash, just for teaching theory to a mob of ranch kids who saw the facts every day) did it largely for Silky, realizing what was happening... for Silky, not being a teen, had no expectation, no rationale for her sulks, her aggressive craving for touch, her desire to kick over desks. Was she mad at being different? At trying to write with her teeth? She thought so.
So Miss D----- told us, using human and ranch-animal examples "since you're all familiar with that," never letting on she suspected any of it applied to our lives yet... certainly not the animal parts!
Silky's ears went straight up and when the bell rang and we were free she said "Race you to the Burndown!" and when I got there, late as always, we went inside the ruin, brick halfwalls hiding us--our favorite hideout--I sat on the inner steps and scratched her and watched the bees, and she said "Let's try it."
I said "Try what?"
Oh, I knew--and I wanted to. I liked to touch that place when I groomed her--I often explored a bit, curious, and she never objected. But I was worried. "What if you have a baby?"
"I don't mind. It doesn't hurt for horses--they showed us, remember?"
"But it's incest. It's supposed to be bad."
"That's right, the baby might be sick or something. Let's lick each other, then we won't have one."
So we did. I was up on the steps, her long nose nuzzling my thighs, my belly--and I only had to lean over, she was already so tall--and she flips her tail and arches her back and her musky friendly smell surrounds me, stronger than it's ever been. I kiss and lick shyly, ask "How's this?" and she squirms in delight. Her broad tongue curls round my whole penis and I start rocking and giggling. By pure chance I slid against her clitoris... she inhaled in shock and then WHUFF! Cold air then hot wet whuff on my penis and I come and grab her haunches tight and shove my face blindly into her and soon she comes too--Oh it was wonderful.
We still do it, on and off. I think Centaur's Children, of whatever form, do feel sex differently: we don't connect it with death. That's why you worry so. Birth is so terrible, so risky, for humans--one in ten once died! Love kills. Well, killed; really you've almost caught up with the rest of us beings, but you don't quite believe your own medical advances. Can't drop your old fears (yet you drive cars, whew!).
I didn't feel jealous when she and our father started up; it felt proper. A Centaur trait I guess, since they felt the same: never hid it, even from her mother, his wife, the human being. Silky went on loving me just as much--and, too, I learned by then the local girls saw a fainter vein of wild in me too--they flirted, fearfully, and I liked the challenge, the intricate coyness, the wary mix of urges the Humans show... I quietly was learning how to pass in the human world--which my sister, as eager and as bright as me, could never do, or so I began to realize.
My mother the Cowboy Queen was quite Centaurily calm about our affair(s). She ignored it, as she does his other Horse actions. Or did she even care? Maybe that's why she can still control Silky--who's so impressed with her mother's self-control. She assumes everyone has the same floods of sensation and animal energy she does. Ma must have some discipline!
Where was I? Oh. Meanwhile, back at the Ranch...
So--Ma and Silky whip around a mountain's flank, snow pluming, and reach my camp. I see myself through her aesthetic eyes, white on white, a lithograph, as she gives another warning: "Your father will need camouflage. He will kill you for your white boots." The Mare keeps her mouth shut. I say "I stay."
Boots! For his hooves? She's getting bizarre. Has she deluded herself she married a man?
Whoosh! the apparition swings round the mountain away, flamboyance indeed! the carriage leaps over cliffs, swings over abysses. She could not do it without that tame dynamo... and the harness binds both ends.
A hill of snow, and the wagon stops. Silky's been thinking.
"I won't pull you up this." says the black mare. The view is grand; and beyond vision, in far canyons, they dimly hear streams shushing, ice cracking.
"Come on, it's not that steep. You can do it!" says her mother. Her old game: can equals want!
She shakes herself, says, "I'll help push your wagon...if YOU do."
Her mother fires up red and then goes out: she's on a snowmass in winter. On her elegant legs, in her newest boots, how many miles through the drifts can she go alone? She swallows her retort and bends to the wheel. The slope crested, they walk on side by side. Their relation has changed. The Centaur's wife gave in not merely for fear; despite her flaws, she knows her Husband is no fool: if she denies rights, equality, to someone seen as all Horse she denies them to one seen as half Horse. There is no half-equality. His accusation was true.
As she admits truth, its shy cousin, serendipity, takes a chance on her. Just a hundred yards more is a new cookhouse! Just built for the high range riders. They park the wagon by the door--no flair now, just weary practicality-- and turn to see the mountains one last time. The warm kitchen air steams out the open frame... and melts the season back to autumn! Snowpacks boil away like fogbanks in the sun. The hills are coppergreen, mustard, rich rust of fall, but for...ONE WHITE DOT, in a maroon valley. Him. She gasps, points. Waves. Silky neighs a long rising shriek; on the west face of the next peak over, a small avalanche trickles down a chute. The dot creeps under the eaves of trees and yellows, fades in the shadows.
Vanished under alders.
"At least we got to see him" says his wife, admitting her tacit communion with Silky; their shared lost love lives. Her daughter shocks her with her reply.
"This isn't seeing him!" The pain and loss so bitter in her halfhuman voice, the sexual and gut-yearning for her father, hits the Cowboy Queen like a meteor: a piece of another world falling from a clear sky. The black mare has thrown off this weight of iron; and her mother's pinned. Perhaps Silky will seek him now that she's free; what his wife will do with the ironic iron lump of seeing her own indifference, who knows?
But something changed. What was quietly ignored became explicit; what I, a Style Queen, palm off as creativity, I, a Black Horse, as love and belonging, I, a Changeling Son, as my Humanity, is not me. There is a me. Out in the stark peaks, withdrawn--on strike for freedom, equal rights. And I will find him.
I return to this other world with my answer. For him to come from the wilderness, I must accept all of him. All of him.
TWO YEARS LATER
Starting to think about dating, I re-enter Dream to find I'm looking at the fancy Christmas displays in San Francisco--"shopping around", as we say.
I meet Silky on the street! Of course she moved there; the Bay really is the American haven for the different. She was plowing through the year-end crowds. People stared, but smiled and went around. She smells me and charges over. We hug and she licks my nose. She grumbles in her squeak-boom voice "Where the hell can a mare get a date in this town?!"
She doesn't mean lack of opportunity. She has the San Francisco dilemma: faced with freedom, confusion! She's unsure of her sexual orientation.
Horse or human?
"See, an Animal has that wonderful feeling of weight... pressing down on me. So I can shake and shove, let the excitement in my legs out and just thrust--and trust, hah! A stallion's so solid, I feel free to go wild--But... they're so damn dumb, the sex is mediocre: if you think Men don't listen...! And they can only share my simplest feelings; they can't know me.
"Yet... they're so beautiful!
"With you and Humans it's so much fun because I can say what I want and you listen--well, the ones I want around do!--and you go for my clit and want to please me--humans feel good. God, hands are so erotic! That's why all those species let themselves be tamed. The feeling of fingers following you, massaging you like they know your insides--you all got eleven tongues and I don't know how you keep from just groping your brains out! My nerves sparkle.
"And we can share--we're equals!--we can love.
"But I miss that horse weight I need to let my muscles go. It releases things; my bones feel good. And a little perverted for doing it with an animal, that adds to it. I go down the Peninsula and hang out in the woods near the racehorse farms and watch them in the fields. God, they're so cute, zooming around!
"Gorgeous purebreds. They always smell me and jump the fence. Yeah, the risk is part of it, okay. Never been caught yet! I lead 'em back in, later. Usually.
"But I miss Pa so much--he can mount me and talk to me--my nerves and bones. With him, all of me's alive...I'm worried I won't find anyone solid like him, and I can't go to him--up on his mountain--I had to leave home to find myself, and I have, and he's wrong--no one can take me away from me! They don't even try, here; people appreciate me! I'm happy living in the City, singing--Hey, I got a band! You come hear me, okay? A new sound, they like it. But I'm afraid... No one else who's like me, ever? In my whole life... can I stand it?"
She's voicing my own thoughts, these last few years. All my art is really just a sign, a broadcast to other different people--"I'm here, come here"--
That evening, at her place in the Sunset, I show her a notebook he started; found it in his barn-study. Journal? Essay? Letter? I hope we can ask someday.
"How strange Humans look to me. Like the false storefronts in town--fancy, then nothing behind. Just the tall armed manipulative half... painted with clothes. Makes you look like rhinos, wrinkled and plated.
Though you dance amazingly-- fluid as monkeys!
And... horses. People, with swan necks, crazy grace... mute as swans. Huge eyes, alien faces. With no arms... no hands. Those long manes, so sensual--that they can't even comb. They can't do... only be. They wander the mountains, hungry, witnessing life without grasping it... or live fat, as slaves, below.
And what about my daughter? My son shows her love, and that Human forms can be part of her life.
But I fear for her; to have a Centaur soul, with no hands... Yet I perhaps project my own frustration; I can't let loose my own full being among Humans without disturbing them. A song with a wild shriek, and they cringe--and ask for more, humming, hovering, like flies, each wanting me--a bite. A tiny bite.
And my son's curse--worse than hers, for hers is so clear--he'll be penned by Human expectations. He, poor halfbreed bastard, can pass. And may. And how can I tell him not to? I'm heading back to the Wilderness to wait. I have no answer. For either of them.
And my wife, who cares, but pretended so much so long that... she doesn't know what she knows.
They all wonder how I chose her--"She's your opposite!" But they can't see her secret--that her flair is just the timidest expression of her wildness--the only human I ever met with Centaur potential! Maybe my leaving will force her to face her power..."
As I woke I knew this was not the last word.
One evening I watched the Public TV version of Virginia Woolf's "To the Lighthouse." She paints and takes it all in; the women talking, maintaining the web of life, the man struggling with philosophy and living as a big kid, trying at last to contact his own kids... sailing to the lighthouse twelve years late... and I entered the dreamworld to find...
I was Queen of the Ranch no longer.
I gave up, sold the place, when my kids left--moved to Manhattan... to work on my photography. My work is getting stronger. I am known, now. I go by "Laura Mars" professionally--I liked that movie. It has a private meaning too: I've begun having visions, as she did--just in snips, flashes; I wonder if this is what my ex meant by "You're a Centaur"--am I starting to see how he sees? And my newest pictures move; most viewers assume it's holographic illusion, but it is no trick. They're coming alive, change on their own. He was right about my potential!
But I'm still fearful of life, of my impulses; I don't go out much--I panic in a crowd or a crisis.
But tonight is special. My first big SOLO show! I walk home, breathing the rain smells, feeling tall and real and tough. They liked my stuff! I see now why my kids fled home to write and sing.
I thread the narrow way, nearing my flat's stair, when I hear hooves clacking! I have a quick bright vision of my Centaur come to join me! The flash fades and I know it is two--at least two--hardbooted men coming up behind me in the dark. The city's no place for myths. Or me. I turn, can see only one hulking silhouette. He looms behind the cans in the near-dark. Breathing heavily--I see the steam. Hear a hoarse chuckle that shatters my nerve for good. He reaches for me and I cower back into the dark and blurt "I, I don't have any money--Here, here's my money--You're him, aren't you, the killer--in the movie--don't kill me--DON'T RAPE ME!--I... I HAVE AIDS! I..." I turn myself into a wretched whining mess.
Every shred of dignity, of self itself is gone as he grabs me, lifts me--I don't even fight. I just whimper.
"I'm ugly... I have herpes..." He carries me forward into the darkest part of the alley. Numbly I see the alley's far end: light, safety, framed by a black spiderweb of fire escapes. Figures-- no! THINGS hang from them, not human, and I realize I'm entering a vision state, at the worst moment. The journey of a few yards becomes dreamlike, endless--I see the alley clearly now, as if I were a nocturnal creature... and then I notice a girl's head before me. Like Laura Mars, I'm seeing through my own killer's eyes.
I see myself... as HE sees me.
A fragile, beautiful woman, looking blindly ahead, horror maiming her face, as her voice, regressed to a scared child's, calls her ugly, stinking, diseased, worthless. Her aura shows heart, brilliance, style, and some kind of clairvoyance. And utter cowardice. Fear rides her--with spurs.
I look up at the monsters on the iron grilles nearing me... There's a big sleepy snake, and aardvarks, and a mini-elephant, and roadrunners... all cartoony animated figures. If I wasn't scared sick, they'd be funny. Then I'm back in my eyes again. I look my killer in the face.
He is a cartoon Centaur... white bearded, gnarly, cheery. He grins and caresses me, hard. The smoldering sex he radiates is terrifying, but there's a big-dog warmth too. I say, inanely, "Wait a minute... you're a cartoon, so if you fuck me...I don't have to worry about getting pregnant, right?" He nods and laughs, and I wonder at myself--I fear more kids, responsibility, that much? Is that why I avoid sex so? He snorts, rears, gallops under the fire escapes, out of my labyrinth of fear. The creatures fly up, escort us as he thunders down the street to the Harbor. He sweeps along the shore... and soon he's running on sand. I look back; their city is gone. The creatures land and tussle and yelp in the surf. Out to sea are three vast green towers, round, shiny, segmented like the stems of plants. I sense the aura of beings living inside. The Centaur crouches. I sense him tense. He points and, for the first time, speaks: "To the lifehouse." And leaps...
That scraggly look when you cross the River--
Black fur gleams, all fused in Paintbrush spikes--
You print the beach with calligraphic Drops
Then storm the duny Bank and yell to the Sun.
The flirt when you arch that longtressed Tail
Playing it's Animal's innocence--
Like a short skirt as you stretch to Reveal
Sweet Wet... and your need to tease my male Pretense.
You're such a Wicked one these days--
I love to see you dare at last to play!
You purr when you lick your Self and me
Merge us in your Arrogant happy Groom
Nudge my limbs Aside, and my drilled Anxiety.
Sister Animal, You and I love You.
You never mock my fragile Bones, my bald Brown Skin,
See me as a Colt to mother, all Gawky Limb.
Vegetarian who likes my Come, recalling Your
Dawndays, sucking musky Wolf milk, and Mare.
|Cat, Heron, blackmaned Girl|
|shapeshifter immature as I'm!|
|Teen-shy Answers, longing Words|
|tinged with Sonic Boom.|
|Your slender graceforms trick Yourself|
|as well as Them and Me:|
|I keep Refinding through your slim door|
|your roiling Cumulus capacity.|
Slowly I grasp why you claim Beast Ways:
To be stubborn wrong Naked, to Beg, to Dig in--
Waternosed instinct, balking, Blocking
For Logic weaves such Halters--till you Kick him!
He says you play Humble, Whore, to manipulate
But I know now, you're fearfully Brave
Just to Beg the rights Humans arrogate--
for Yous who Misbehave.
I saw the Dapper shadow
The Men want Me to be
Drive and use You as Machine;
I bit the gag of Steel.
|So I joy to see you vain, in sea-wind|
|Arch your Comet neck!|
|Shake your mane as you Leap into Bird|
|Knowing the Effect.|
|Vanity's your first sprout of Pride;|
|I pray to Apprehend|
|Your Rights deep-rooted in Defy:|
|Not a loving Lend.|
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