- Wolf & Root
You can tell the wolf is sick—bluish steam rising from its flank—tail lain flat—thronged by birds in medical masks. Its one yellow eye weeps hard salt.
You can tell it is sick, ridden with stench and itch, so in the pit it won'ttwitch or flick off flies. At an operable distance, the birds perform their surgeries.
My father is impatient for the fork— roughs up its silver, skids it across the tableclothto where my mother's head is buriedunder a napkin.
I was conceived at this table.
How might I manage— freeze mother and father on their stretchers so they will stay figures of the past—how might I say no harm done let the wolf breathehow might I not start at every word as all words these days are suggestive [End Page 48]
Star-pedigreed: its thin sharp nose, elegantdrop of fur, long curls down bony legs: the wolfhound was the dog my mother bredinside the rattly kennels, inside our narrow house—.
Wolfhound in the hallway. My father finally home.I'm trying to squeeze past the flanks of the dog
to get to him in his suit,his dark distracted glasses,
but the dog presses me against the walland my voice doesn't manage
to rise high enoughbefore he disappears into a pleat of light.
Someone said she hounded him. Someone said he slunk off down the oily streets on trains with lipstick on his cuff and his lip.Someone said when you were a child you never spoke. We all thought something was wrong with you.
Sniffing me all over picking me up from the train she saidyou smell like your father
Picking me up from the train he saidwhat has your mother fed youwhy are your dresses stained
You sound like your father she said dropping me off at the train you're slouching like him [End Page 49]
Dropping me off at the train he said you could give me a call once in awhile don't drag your feet, it's a beautiful day
Don't tell him anything about me she cried driving me away
Come, hangdog shovel. Come, anything— gate-hook, rake. Taketo that root wired deep in the earth, its dirty traversal, its fang-drip, its stark length embarrassingly naked,shreddeddirty webs of littler mistress-roots clinging to it— the delicate threadworks fanning out pull easily,but it won't budge. And when I hack at it there is no blood.
I have strapped myself to a bed of dirt.I have become a yard of cruel secrets.
What can I give youmother, fatherthat won't wilt in your hands.
I wanted to see the wolf, I had milkflowerfor it— but the fox arrived instead,its mouth full of weeds and dead bird, [End Page 50]
beautiful trotter, whisk-a-way tail, quick-fire-brush, glimmer, fur piece on little feetat dusk.
Dusk is a curtain my mother disapproved of.She devoured my platebefore it was set.
At her behest,I reached for an invisible glass.I drank a bowl of soot.
Wolfmeat in the larder, a peppershaker of birds what to eat what to eat
distended belly of the bell that has swallowed its tongue
what to choose from the shelf:tentacles, barnacles, the seal's worried eye and then which spoon, what plate, napkin or not
how much to take
The root again. Esophageal—as if in my throat—.
Tableau: a stricken Medea in the kitchen, my mother raising her knifetoward my father's closed, smeared face.
This will be a painting she hangs in her living room and points at incessantly. [End Page 51] Down the tracks from her house, between visitations,he sleeps all day in his bloated city,getting up only to pull downthe blind.
My father went waltzing off his birthday boat collapsed drunk in the dunes
My mother went waltzing off a diving boardsmack into the Arctic—everything so achingly cold and clear...