Holding for the Farrier

“On fire, he might think he’s on fire,”
Thomas says, right before touching
the power of Anthanor and a blaze red shoe
to the horse’s foot. Widening
my stance, I grip the halter tight, brace
for a startled bolt. But there’s only a brief
soft-lipped nudge to my hand.
Steam engulfs us.
                             Balneum vaporis,
fire and dragons. Again the dark anvil
sings. Alchemy, its tinctures, mixtures,
inunctions bought a carriage, four teams
of horses for Leonhard Thurneysser
zum Thurm of Bile. Oleum cinnamoni
he sold for 12 thalers, and amethyst, sapphire
remedies yielded fantastic returns. Work
as a physician only earned him feed.
Thomas pounds iron, sparks
showers of constellations, realizes
Cauda Pavonis, and muttering:
“You can’t make money at this,”
under his breath
sends us again
                         into vapors. Mercury conceives
inward Sulpher, coagulates itself. The sun
and moon merge, have a child, Hermaphrodite.
Eyebrows delicate, butterfly arched. Nails
long, slick and lavender. A curvaceous, comatose
beautician pulled from the wreckage yielded
strange fruit.
                     Similia similibus curantus. And EMTs,
surprised by the cock and balls under the dress,
backed away. Mocked him
today’s newspaper claimed. Thurneysser fled
when gold leaf chipped off the lead he’d sold
as pure gold. The beautician died. Mocked her,
the protesters corrected. Always
use the pronoun describing the gender
                     Thomas separates the quintessence,
likes his women perfumed and coiffed. This horse,
he says, had an abscess. Props
the foot on his leather apron, points
out the rupture high on the hoof-wall. I rub
my finger over the hard protrusion. Sharp
shoots of pain imagined up
my own leg.
                    Manifestation of the negative
aspect. The horse nuzzles my shoulder, my hand
patting an apology for not knowing. Language.
Thurneysser wrote in languages
he didn’t know. The Devil
in his inkpot. Divorce cost him all
his money. Cold mornings, Thomas’ first wife
started his truck, warmed the cab to comfort.
Lying in bed, once, he heard
a girlfriend coaxing a reluctant roar
out of his Chevy.
                           Stygian darkness.
“It’s over,” he says, “when girlfriends act
like wives.” One last blast,
unctuous water, hot mist. “Tough
old guy,” Thomas offers, “took care of it
himself.” Cheiron convulsing in pain, fever
dripping sweat from flesh to fur, hooves
trying to pace away the agony inflicted
by a friend, traded immortality to end
his suffering. Catholicism. Thurneysser
converted when silver wouldn’t transmute
to gold. “He’ll be sore,” Thomas says,
“for a few days.” The horse steps gingerly,
bends to nibble fresh hay in his stall. Thomas loads
the truck, clangs the anvil onto the steel bed.
It waits there. Cold, heavy and dark.