National Velvet

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When the Vatican charged Elizabeth Taylor
with erotic vagrancy in 1962 for sleeping
with Richard Burton while still married to
I forget who, there were so many, all
I could think of was her soaring over fences
on The Pie, her first love, a piebald horse
with one blue eye who’d leapt a five-foot
stone wall to get into another pasture
and one thing led to another in the book
by Enid Bagnold and Liz rose to stardom
in Hollywood at age twelve. Piebalds
have large patches, usually black on white,
sometimes the other way around, which are not
desirable on a thoroughbred, especially
one with eyes that do not match, two
traits suggesting some erotic vagrancy—
a hybrid rogue slipped generations back
into the registry. Liz married seven men,
Burton twice, by which time he was losing
his hair and she was growing a double chin,
but let us remember how fiercely she flew
over fences on the wild piebald horse
with one brown eye and one that was blue.

Maxine Kumin’s recent books include Where I Live: New and Selected Poems 1990–2010 and The Roots of Things: Essays (2010). She lives in New Hampshire.
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