A Daughter the Real Horse (excerpt)

Farid Matuk

                what’s my workwhat I thought our shadow                on the distaff side                lined out women gone outeither way from you                pulling thread out of flax from the staff                writing                anything we want                depilating                or setting hair                if each dimension in time is also another                already folded in or stacked on topour work might fall off the display                but maybe we don’tduring the war being a reliable thing to say                what metals went into the sentence                into the tack and spurs if iron was cheaplet’s say iron with what vigilance the books say                was in the air                everyone came to see the rebelhero sent away in Adah’s body                a thing she mastered onstage                until it was a room she could leave                                shavings of metal on her fingertips                animal grease     in her teeth in her century                                no edits or quick takes outside of a trainor strapped to a horse     onto that externalizing love                machines call up                like when it rainsdrops shine slow in our desert                air threadedabout the water tower                and eucalyptus grove                like stage curtains                heavy until they’re not                like any of the videos that assume one dayyou’ll join those of us still looking                the curtains lighten                but never fall off the little swarms                Napoleon Sarony’s publicity pictureslifted and split Adah into                “a New Orleans baby”“I will create a new sensation     depend on it”     Adah promisedthat shudder in a long sequence where sides fold in timein edits in the eye she put herself there and gonein a dummy’s place tied to a real horseriding four stories up a narrow ramp a new feelingoff a great horsewoman     wolves on the run Inca doves fog the stage     for an ideal manof refinement taciturn was a woman seen     in their thousandsconical retina tunnels layering     each other’s looking so many timesdid it feel like they slapped space red to its surface     then a fineash in the wrinkles     it’s not a space for details that fall away in wordsclean blood     where no one steps in the reservoir you can see it between usseeping in degrees crusting or draining     into various attitudes renderingfeelings her busy arms would strip the airclean of critics saying     “She poses better than she speaks”


In 1861 Adah Menken started her long run playing the “breeches role” of the Cossack hero, Ivan Mazeppa. Navigating the theater houses of the United States and Europe, she used the press to alternately circulate and repudiate rumors of her mixed European and African ancestry. Each night on stage she covered her skin, though not her shape, in a pinkish white body stocking to play the culminating scene in which Mazeppa is stripped nude and bound, against a scrolling panorama, to a runaway horse.

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Farid Matuk is the author of the poetry collections This Isa Nice Neighborhood and The Real Horse. Born in Peru to a Syrian mother and Peruvian father, Matuk has lived in the U.S. variously as an undocumented person, a “legal” resident, and a “naturalized” citizen. Matuk’s work has been recognized most recently with a New Works Grant from the Headlands Center for the Arts and a Holloway Visiting Professorship at University of California, Berkeley.

Tucson, Arizona

The University of Arizone

A sustained address to the poet’s daughter, The Real Horse takes its cues from the child’s unapologetic disregard for things as they are, calling forth the adult world as accountable for its flaws and as an occasion for imagining otherwise.

“A complex and intricately layered collection.”

“A lyrical interrogation of Western notions of gender, race, and manifest destiny.”
Publisher’s Weekly

“As in the illusion of animal locomotion through the slots of a nineteenth-century zoetrope, Farid Matuk’s The Real Horse animates discontinuities of sight and ensuing sound from the historical vault: subjects of social fascination, bodies of the landed and deracinated, fugitives of racial brutality. Lines engender ambient occasions, course surfaces, and a frontier diminishment enacted as present personhood, pushed into forms of ‘a real outlaw daughter’—into dissociative voices of inheritance.”
—Roberto Tejada

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