I thought of home, and how you were telling me
that when you tell people there are birds in Detroit,
they think it’s a metaphor.
This happens to me too, except instead of birds,
I usually tell them there are unicorns,
and instead thinking it’s a metaphor,
they think I’m lying to them.
They think this because
A) I am, and
B) Well, I thought I had another reason,
but I guess it’s mostly just reason A.
What they don’t realize is there actually was a unicorn once.
But only one. (Not plural like I tell them).
A boy begged his parents to get him a horse.
They gave in, but screwed up.
Instead, he got a quivering thing
with a whiny and a white horn. At school,
it was chaos and anger on show-and-tell day:
What’s wrong with your ugly horse, his classmates chanted.
Their parents called his parents to rail against
the troublemaker, the kid who wouldn’t “play by the rules.”
Jamaal, let me tell you, I have little patience
for these people and their utter paucity of cognition.
Anyway, week after week, a mob of small tyrants
traipsed by that kid’s house to terrorize the horse.
They’d spit, they’d point,
they’d bare their stupid, stupid, little teeth.
It was more than any kid could take, and torn
between his love of the horse and his desire
not to be different, the boy crumbled the way
all things crumble when they’re kicked
and kicked by the blunt and uninspired.
He snuck out one night with a plan in his brain
and his father’s hacksaw in his backpack.
It was the wrong move and the next morning,
the thing was dead. Discovering the body, he wept
and wept, rushed to recover the horn but already—
it was powder, pale as ashes, coarse as sea salt.
Also, Jamaal, I’m glad that two grown-ass dudes
in the middle of America,
can have a meaningful conversation about unicorns.
It says this nation is not yet lost.
As for the kid with the dead horse?
Imagine the next day at school. How would he respond?
Tears? A damning finger pointed
in the direction of his classmates? Perhaps, he pretended
not to even see them; he simply walked right by:
an exile leaving home forever.
Behind him, if one cared to look,
we might have seen most
of the known world: zealous currents, ravaged pastures,
skies that shudder as if trampled by hooves.