Poem of the Week | July 09, 2018

This week, we are excited to present a new poem by Sally Rosen Kindred. Kindred is the author of two full-length poetry books from Mayapple Press, Book of Asters (2014) and No Eden (2011), and three chapbooks, including Says the Forest to the Girl, forthcoming from Porkbelly Press. She has received two Individual Artist Awards in poetry from the Maryland State Arts Council. Her poems have appeared recently or are forthcoming in The Gettysburg Review, Pleiades, Poetry Northwest, and Kenyon Review Online.

Fairy Tale for Mother and Teenage Son

A wolf dreams his death
at the foot of a bloodied alder. You know this
because it’s your son who dreamed it.
You had a son who’s now a wolf.
The snow-hour he wakes to is bright with breath
from his new mouth and moonlit by his cry.
You had a son. Now you are bewildered.
A wolf can be mistaken for a rock.
A wolf can be mistaken for the moon.
A wolf must be mistaken when
he looks at his body and sees your son.
He was a child, felt his body enter snow
but the snow was the muscle
of a dream, stretched past howl and bone.
He looks at you now from beauty, his dread-body.
He sees you through his hackles, his smoke eye.
You are no wolf: can’t be. Are soft, white, a rat—
whiskered other. Your hungers smell wrong. You lean,
all flesh-belly song—he remembers. You pry a lullaby
from your crowded mouth: he sees teeth. Wolf hunches now,
hungry. Numb. He was your son. He turns away.

Author’s Note:

I began drafting this poem at 30,000 feet, flying from the East Coast to the Los Angeles AWP meeting. I mention that because I think that being trapped in that cold-high-white space for so many hours probably gave the poem some of its weird, snowy energy. That suspended state may have made way for the fairy-tale transformations that adolescence, and the profound changes it brings to mothers as well as sons, assumed. The way a child grows up and away from a parent is of course exquisite and necessary, but also may seem at the time, from inside the relationship, brutal, unintelligible, and wild. The magic of fairy tales feels to me like a language for change that happens outside of our typical narrative control; I wanted the poem to re-create the need to navigate between dream-logic wilderness and the sensory reality of the body. I wanted to tell myself the strange beauty and pain of that story.