The "you" in this poem is my sister, Marsha.
“Quiet," you whisper, "a wolf.” You turn
and dip your head into deep darkness.
A greasy tang salts the air.
in a black-earth den--
too small to be a cavern and
too big to be a grave.
A rivulet hisses.
Fleshy roots wallpaper the cave.
The candle flames and you are a crone,
cheeks sunken, eyes too round, too alert.
You’re frightened. Tingling cloaks me.
“I smell it-- old and sick.”
The punch of decay hugs the burrow.
I imagine patches of missing fur, polka dots
of scaly red flesh.
“Poor thing,” we chorus. “Poor, poor thing.”
You offer your forearm to the darkness, a leathery stick.
“No! It wouldn’t change anything,” I grab it,
yank it back, and it’s a club-- a shillelagh,
gnarled fairy wood, bewitched,
alive with blue and green sparks.
“I’m going to end it,” I say.
The wolf whines and drags itself into view. Poor thing,
its foreleg is rotten. Maybe it was caught in a trap or broken.
The creature’s red eyes plead with me.
I dab the air above its head with the wand, and
We’re alone with nothing, at all-- just a dark space.