Jul/Aug 2004 Poetry Special Feature

Wolf Daughter

by Jennifer Finstrom

Wolf Daughter

This story should belong to that
long ago time when animals and men
understood each other's speech,
but she is too young and doesn't know
enough to wish herself into a fairy tale.
She should have been given a musty
wolf pelt and a new name, been
called Wolf Daughter, Pale Stranger,
The One Who Came in from the Cold.

But the wind is sharp and northerly,
chapping her skin as she wanders lost
and naked in the wild oregano.
The herb must mask her human scent,
for when the wolves surround her,
they are soft-eyed and curious.
She lays down in a nest of
wrestling puppies, and the sun
sets its eraser to all she has known.
Warm bath and blanket solemnly
disappear. Towels follow the white
plate beyond the far horizon. They
are members of a search party sadly
going home.

The wolves speak no language
that she knows. She matches their
grunts and growls, rolls with the puppies
in their mad games. She eats as they do,
fresh meat from the steaming kill.
She knows shelter from spreading
tree and drops her head to drink
from cool and hurrying stream.

And when they find her again,
there are new names to be handed
round like presents. She is Feral Child
Found in Cave and Missing Girl
Covered in Blood. She is Girl
Who Cannot Speak. She shatters
the white plate like a broken moon
and wants nothing from the towel
and the bath. Instead she
lacks those things for which she has no
sounds, and squirms through
the window to sleep on the roof's
gray slab. There she dreams the wordless
warm breath of brother and sister,
the scrabble of claws on rock, the lost
wide sky for which no species has a name.


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