Tuesday, March 23, 2021

The Wolf as Pickup Artist

 

by Emily Rose Cole, in the Los Angeles Review

Instead of horns, think cello. Slow saw

of the bowstring, sing me an acre

of weeping spruces, a winter with red 

details, the reek of a rotted tongue. 

I swear I’m not as simple as the stories

 make me seem. I’m a complex wreck.

 

I don’t blame you. A girl fears wreckage

like a fingerbone fears a buzzsaw.

But listen, I once lived in a house with two stories

& a taxidermist’s bench. Carving knives. Acres

of blighted trees whose skin sloughed off in tongues.

I slept in the attic. Scrounged scraps. Clubbed bats with a red 

 

catgut racquet. I’m more than some distempered

creature. You think I’m this mythic girl-wrecker,

but when your turnips freeze, do you blame the tongues

of frost? It’s in my nature, sweetheart: riptide, hacksaw,

west wind. I take, because someone’s got to. Because ache

 builds character, & a good villain makes a good story. 

 

There’s always a taker, isn’t there? Look at history—

whole civilizations lashed together with fettered

skin. Am I so bad, compared to all those acres

changing hands through force of ruin, the shipwrecks

men make of each other’s small, irregular lives? I’m just a jigsaw 

piece, the forest’s flicker of teeth. In your narrative, my tongue

 

slavers for girl-blood, means danger. But not all tongues

call a wolf a warning. Sometimes, I’m mother or pathfinder. Stories 

change. Girls go unmurdered. It’s not my fault you saw

a predator when you looked at me, is it, Red?

You strolled up to the bar thinking now here’s a homewrecker,

a man to trust as much as an untamed wilderness, a few acres 

 

of cloven pines. To you, I might as well be a massacre

made flesh: a dew-clawed deceiver, the whiskey-tongued

risk your mama warned you about, the distillation of wrack

& ruin. Tell me you’re not that gullible. Say you don’t believe every story 

you hear. Aren’t you curious? Don’t let yourself be martyred

to loneliness. Come with me. Maybe I’m the sweetest prince you ever saw. 

 


Emily Rose Cole is the author of Thunderhead, a collection forthcoming from University of Wisconsin Press, and Love & a Loaded Gun, a chapbook of persona poems from Minerva Rising Press. She holds an MFA from Southern Illinois University Carbondale and is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Cincinnati.