POETRY

Torn

By

At first, it's only a hoof where my left foot
used to be, and the only inconvenience

is a shoe that won't fit. But then, overnight,
a nagging migraine builds to a hard nub

that sprouts five inches above my left eye—
worse than teenage acne: a horn

my hairline can't disguise. Left eyebrow, too,
is acting up—arching, turning black—

to match half a goatee below—I shave it off;
it grows back. And the hair on my left leg

feels coarser, and now my leg is bending back
—goat's hock curving to fetlock. I try to straighten it.

It kicks back. Tail's the worst; it's forked
—a bit furry, a bit skinned—darting now

through a hole in my boxers. I decide
to call in sick. And it's true, I'm in agony:

left shoulder blade wrenching, a loud snap.
On my back, a black umbrella unfolds

into a leather wing. In the mirror, half a devil
and I wonder whether hope might spring

from my other side: First sign, a feather.


Kelly McQuain was born in the mountains of West Virginia but now works as a professor of English in Philadelphia. His poems were recently featured in The Philadelphia Inquirer and on NPR's Tell Me More as part of National Poetry Month. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Bloom, Chelsea Station, Assaracus, Painted Bride Quarterly, Kansas Quarterly/Arkansas Review, and Icarus: the Magazine of Gay Speculative Fiction. His stories have been anthologized in over a dozen publications, including Skin & Ink, Best American Erotica and the Lambda Literary Award-winning Men on Men 2000. He serves on the "One Book, One Philadelphia" Selection Committee. He formerly worked as an illustrator of sexy, adult-rated superhero comics. His occasional column on city life debuted in The Philadelphia Inquirer in July 2012.

At first, it's only a hoof where my left foot
used to be, and the only inconvenience