The Centaur, May Swenson
1. The summer that I was ten—
2. Can it be there was only one
3. summer that I was ten? It must
4. have been a long one then—
5. each day I'd go out to choose
6. a fresh horse from my stable
7. which was a willow grove
8. down by the old canal.
9. I'd go on my two bare feet.
10. But when, with my brother's jack-knife,
11. I had cut me a long limber horse
12. with a good thick knob for a head,
13. and peeled him slick and clean
14. except a few leaves for the tail,
15. and cinched my brother's belt
16. around his head for a rein,
17. I'd straddle and canter him fast
18. up the grass bank to the path,
19. trot along in the lovely dust
20. that talcumed over his hoofs,
21. hiding my toes, and turning
22. his feet to swift half-moons.
23. The willow knob with the strap
24. jouncing between my thighs
25. was the pommel and yet the poll
26. of my nickering pony's head.
27. My head and my neck were mine,
28. yet they were shaped like a horse.
29. My hair flopped to the side
30. like the mane of a horse in the wind.
31. My forelock swung in my eyes,
32. my neck arched and I snorted.
33. I shied and skittered and reared,
34. stopped and raised my knees,
35. pawed at the ground and quivered.
36. My teeth bared as we wheeled
37. and swished through the dust again.
38. I was the horse and the rider,
39. and the leather I slapped to his rump
40. spanked my own behind.
41. Doubled, my two hoofs beat
42. a gallop along the bank,
43. the wind twanged in my mane,
44. my mouth squared to the bit.
45. And yet I sat on my steed
46. quiet, negligent riding,
47. my toes standing the stirrups,
48. my thighs hugging his ribs.
49. At a walk we drew up to the porch.
50. I tethered him to a paling.
51. Dismounting, I smoothed my skirt
52. and entered the dusky hall.
53. My feet on the clean linoleum
54. left ghostly toes in the hall.
55. Where have you been? said my mother.
56. Been riding, I said from the sink,
57. and filled me a glass of water.
58. What's that in your pocket? she said.
59. Just my knife. It weighted my pocket
60. and stretched my dress awry.
61. Go tie back your hair, said my mother,
62. and Why is your mouth all green?
63. Rob Roy, he pulled some clover
64. as we crossed the field, I told her.
Swenson, May. "The Centaur." 1958. All USU Press Publications. Book 97. Utah State UP, 2007. http://digitalcommons.usu.edu/usupress_pubs/97. Web. 25 July 2016.
The rhetorical question in lines 2-3 PRIMARILY serves to