Wolf Dreams

by Laurie Byro
Desert Moon Review
First Place, January 2007
Judged by Pascale Petit

I wasn’t sure what he wanted of me; the ice
in winter birches had made the forest slouch
into spring. All that winter I peeled

and sucked papery bark for the sweet taste.
I recognized him from his red tongue,
the furtive runs when I entered his dream

and we crawled along the forest floor, repenting
the dark. I had nothing to bargain with,
no deal to make him human. The night

was filled with briars and salt. In the summer
the air became thick with honeysuckle, slick
with mating. Beetles droned in messy beds

of clover. We slunk along, weeds stroking
my belly. I hadn’t yet decided which life
was better. Grass combed the plume of my tail.

The nights were crystal sharp. I waggled
my slit high, what was left of my breasts pushed
into a pile of decaying leaves. Who cared

how many and how often, I was not entirely his.
Eyes of owls glittered in the sleep of trees, tree frogs
sang in a green-robed choir. The moon clamped

its yellow tooth into my shoulder. I took the whole
night inside. What was to become of us? I had
packed away my white Juliet cap and veil for just

such an occasion. I held him like a warm
peach in my palm, longed for his juice to run
down my chin. Most nights I didn’t care about

the names they gave me. I held my fingers
out to him, felt the tug as my ring fell off, carried
my limbs down to the entrance of his den,

planted a birch just outside his home
as a token of my loyalty. I was free
of the chains of consequence. I gave birth

to his amber-eyed bastard who without hesitation
he devoured. When he becomes old and says
he always dreams of me, I shall make myself

a meal of him, savor his voluptuous tongue,
and suck all the bitterness from his bones.
He will not make such promises again.

This poem creates its own world. It made a deep impression on me from the first reading. It's utterly magical yet I am convinced of its reality, that something important is being vividly communicated. All the senses are employed to persuade me that the emotional heart is true. I can smell and taste it, hear the poem's heartbeat. It's hard to write well about sex but this accomplished, elemental fairytale has a considerable erotic charge. The surprise ending adds an extra edge to the intense love affair and mention of a white Juliet cap and veil keep us anchored in the human despite the wolf persona. The language is taut, lush and has a consistent, lulling rhythm. I love "the sleep of trees" and "The moon clamped / its yellow tooth into my shoulder. I took the whole / night inside" which draw me even further under the poem's spell. --Pascale Petit