I was once a wolf. I was once wild. I knew the smell of the forest. Now it rings as a vague sensation of coming home. I remember the pines that stretched for miles, undulating across the land. I know the shape of the oaks, their trunks all thick and grizzled. I wove through these for hundreds of years and you tamed me.
No, no, that is not what happened at all. I am the one who tamed you. It was I who came to the edge of the wood to live and built my house and settled quietly.
The earth gave me fruit of my hands, my labor, my sweat. The forest gave me you, trotting out into a clearing and blinking at me in the bright daylight while I smudged a line of dirt across my nose in erasing an itch. You would come to me like that from time to time and in time I learned more of the forest and forgot my field with its young vegetables. I hungered for meat and you taught me the hunt. You taught me the thrill of the flesh, all form and fabric. How it would work. Strive and bend, in the hunt. I forgot my field of vegetables. I forgot the light and the cabin and the quiet settling. I lived in dark and silent places. I rushed headlong into the night but it rubbed raw against me. I did not have your toughened hide. I was all soft pink with curves in my hard lines. I worried. I worry.
You are gone to the forest and the shady reticence there. I cannot live without the sun. I cannot live without the dirt on my hands and in a line across my nose. We lived like this for years – you, blinking on the edge on the wood and I in my garden. My fields spread out over the years, rolling across the meadow.
I shaped the earth, planted rows, tended time and drew forth trellises of vine, laden with fruit. The land begged for the order of my hands.
Your pack came in the afternoon as I tended to the grapes. They flowed down the covered rows of vine. I saw them from the end crashing like the white froth of a wavehead. I waited and then they came upon me and tore and rent and crushed with their awful jaws and left me there guttering and piled. Spiders lowered themselves from the vines above and wove me tight around. The dirt sprouted roots that waved in the golden light of evening and then rushed across the ground. I felt the fingers of the roots passing through the webbing and tapping into my skin. They fed me until my body mended. My bones set in casts of silver web. My bruises faded and skin patched. I passed the time watching the grapes grow. They swung all about me, growing fat and swelling with the luxury summer. Time tended me and I mended. I counted the seconds with the sticks the sparrows carried to their nests. I learned the lattice of their pattern as they passed above me. The early morning weave of brown feather and sharp cry against the blue of the sky. I once watched a flock of finches fight a hawk, baiting him to fly into the glare of the sun and then attacking from the sides. On the ground, underneath the vines of grapes I felt the wet on their beaks, the sharp taste of iron flashing back along their tongues.
I mind my rows of vegetables with a limp now. My hip stutters in its articulation.
You catch in it. I wait sometimes on the edge of the woods for you to appear out of the shadow of the oak and pine. For you to come to me and press press press your hand against my ribs with the fingers shaped like the blade
of a knife. Tilt the tips so that they pass through my skin like hot wax and pass between the ribs, they will move to allow you entrance. There is light sleeping here. It huddles like the newborn rabbits we found, mewling and blind in their burrow. Press your hand to there and I will breathe deep and even, my chest moving around your forearm. The light will approach and you must be still, a movement will startle. If you are quiet and if you do not mind waiting, it will brush against your hand and then you will know. The shape of your skin rests against it. I feel your thrum out from my ribs, reverberating.
I remember the tension of the leeches as we would pull them from our skin after swimming in the lake. They gripped in my mind with creamy filaments, all hard cartilage. I imagined the tiny rends in my skin as I would pinch it by the tail and try to remove it without breaking it in half.
I remember you vomiting on the beach as I pulled one from your shoulder,
“Hold still, it slipped out of my hands.”