“To Ride the Puca” by Beth Cato

“To Ride the Puca” by Beth Cato

when he wakes he feels as if
flesh lingers
below the stub of his knee
ever-present as the whiskey sour
of his breath

when he hobbles from the cabin each afternoon
the puca greets him with a whicker
the sly equine spirit with an open offer
to ride away, away, away
to fairylands and far-beyonds

“I get that in a bottle”
he tells the fae beast
even as he admires the horse’s lines

he remembers
before the war, before Shiloh
the joy of throwing himself astride
to gallop and bound through Lowcountry lanes
the tracks around genteel mansions
silks, flowers, the buzz of victory fiercer
than any burn from liquor

the puca grants him the same assessment
patience in ancient eyes
black as a rifle’s barrel

the man wonders if in those distant fairy lands
he’d find a leg again
or if that would truly matter
once he was on horseback again
once he rediscovered that glorious rhythm
of unfurled muscles and long strides

that maybe it’s not one leg he misses
but four

Beth Cato is the author of The Clockwork Dagger steampunk fantasy series from Harper Voyager. She’s a Hanford, California, native transplanted to the Arizona desert, where he lives with her husband, son, and requisitie cat. Follow her at BethCato.com and on Twitter at @BethCato.