Lucian Mattison, "Goring"




Maybe you saw me in the Picasso Museum,

how I stood for an hour in front of Gored Horse

thinking about Plaza de Toros in Pamplona


praying to the toro lidiado, how banderillas 

dripped a rosary of blood down its obsidian pelt.

Yes, the grandstand was full. No, women


did not beg for the bull’s ears when it finally stumbled. 

The beast leaned against corrugated iron 

catching its breath to the chagrin of spectators. 


The torero was ushered off stage, tail tucked 

between his legs. Birds glittering above, their little razor 

blade wings cut sheet music on a cerulean dusk. 


Nothing about it was torturous, indeterminate; 

it was chaines turns and feather steps until the goring.

Nobody won. When their bodies came together,


it only made sense: head upswept,

costumed body twirled on a horizontal axis, 

horn the choreographer of blooding. It could be


I confuse sex with what is worthy of worship, 

but in that museum I ran my tongue

along the deckle fringe of the bull’s severed tail, 


my body a banderilla thrust in reverence. 

I was worshipping the arena in which we injure,

watch worn partners bleed before us.


Lucian Mattison is the author of Peregrine Nation (The Broadkill River Press, 2014), which won the 2014 Dogfish Head Poetry Prize. His work has appeared in Bodega, The Boiler, Everyday Genius, and Hobart, among others. He edits poetry for Green Briar Review and Barely South Review