It is so dark inside the wolf
were the first words I heard after the huntsman’s shears
flayed my belly as if he were extracting an early child.
She climbed from me, slick with digestive fluid,
followed by the grandmother who tumbled out,
a soggy bag of bones, and curled at the foot of the bed.
Something red covered my head and I smelled the huntsman’s sweat
and cake and wine before the darkness swallowed me.
It must have been a dream
I thought, groggy and cotton-mouthed.
The skin on my lumped belly was pulled taut and sewn
with thick, jagged stitches from breastplate to pelvis,
threatening to burst. My tongue was like sand on the wound
so I dragged my sack-of-stones body from the bed
out the front door. My claws clicked and slipped on the blood
that seeped from my stomach, smearing a trail along the floor.
The old woman stood on the porch, hands clasped
over her cane, eyes fixed to the ground in front of her.
My thirst pulled me to the stream and I, with my belly
full of rocks, leaned out to lap up the coolness in the twilight.
A nudge sent me sliding down the bank
and I didn’t even try to swim when I hit the bottom.
I saw her through the water. Such big eyes
she had, that glared down
to the darkness inside me. In her hand was a needle,
still glistening and dripping with a sap-like liquid
that matched the colour of her cap.
* * *
I couldn’t stop wondering
what would have happened
if that huntsman hadn’t heard
the wolf’s loud snores.
The suffocating heat inside
that belly would have killed us
eventually. Am I crazy if I say
I didn’t want to be saved?
I’ve never felt warmer,
and the muffled way in which
the world filtered through him
was comforting—how I imagine
a baby feels in the womb:
weightless, warm. And the shears
tore through it all, brought forth
a light that stabbed my eyes, air
that stung my skin, and I wanted
to crawl back in. But to feel
that way was wrong and I knew it.
So I filled him with rocks
and, well, you know the rest.
To accept death is brave,
but to crave death?
I thought the craving
would have died with the wolf.
* * *
To be back inside the wolf
I need a mouth
around me, something hot
Mouths are easy to find
in the dark, when I’ve drowned
myself in liquor.
teeth, they ripple my skin
like the surface of a lake,
but no matter how deep
the plunge, I always
come out breathing.
* * *
My story doesn’t end
and I never seem to win.
I’ve been sliced, stuffed, drowned, skinned,
boiled and eaten, and yet I come again,
slinking with my trickery,
wicked about the eyes, meaning
to spring down upon you
and devour you in the darkness.
You can kill me and kill me and kill me,
but I will feed on your hate
and when the shadows
are their darkest, you will see my eyes:
two lanterns coming towards you
in the night.