Stories on the edge of familiarity
There Are Wolves in the Forest (poem 2 of the Mars trilogy)

There Are Wolves in the Forest (poem 2 of the Mars trilogy)

There are wolves in this forest
It was supposed to be a haven
a world of green after the dry death
the red wasteland of before
but there are wolves here
and I’m running
because they’ve been chasing me
the moment I touched the ground

“We are you”
“We are you”
they say, fanged shadows with yellow eyes
as they race through the trees around me and behind me
They pounce
and there I am
pulling out the hair on my body with clawed hands
Keep walking
I tell myself
keep walking

NO

They leap from me and I am myself
running again
stumbling
breath like sandpaper in my lungs
and trachea
I trip into the water
and swim under the water with a mermaid’s tail
there they are above me, around this blue world
so long as I never rise to the surface, they can never get me
I am not alone here in the ocean
I am human with a convenient tail
but there are real mermaids here
mermaids, mermen
they circle for a moment and beckon
I could be with them
I exhale a moment, relieved
But not at peace
because they are not human
and I am
I don’t belong here

damn

so I swim
And above me is the surface
with the wolves around it
I break into the world again and run again
the tail gives way to legs
why can’t I ever use them to walk?
Or sit?
Because I’m not safe
The mer people said they were me, too

I arrive at a pile of garbage
Everything worn, broken
Everything that should be dead, but sits there
and stares with empty eyes
I scrabble up and over it
plastic computer casings and eyeless doll heads
breaking free to fall beneath my feet
the pack follows
nearer behind me than beside
it could jump me, but I don’t let it
the animals wait for an opening
but I don’t give it
I can’t be this
I can’t be me
I have to be something other than what they say
something… nicer
something that wouldn’t eat you just as easy as smile at you

There is an oasis past the garbage dump
blue water and palm trees
the wolves around and mer inside
the music is in the water
but I don’t want to hear what they have to say
so I leap into the air
only to be shot through the heart by Sagitarius
I lie on the carpet of black and silver
the stars stare with concerned eyes
but they daren’t come any closer
their arms half-lifted
like they want to do something
but I am a wild animal
and they’re not sure if I’ll bite them
but I’m human
I’m human
I promise
except they’re stars
and what are humans to them?
I have to keep going
so I crawl, trailing blood through the sky
the stars make way for me
watching
attentive
afraid
And I fall through a hole of light
into a therapist’s office full of wood and books
with a fireplace in the corner
I collapse into the chair
so relieved I cry
God sits on the other side of the desk and he asks
“What do you want?”
I laugh
“I’m not allowed to want.
I’m not allowed to want if I’m not allowed to feel.”
He says
“That’s not what this is about”
and the forest swirls back into place
the wolves stand around me, tails down and whining
they stare up at me
brown fur and questioning eyes as they lick their muzzles
May we?
They would lick my muzzle if they could
if I had one
I let them come
and only two approach from behind to pull
the arrow from my body
there is blood flowing down my chest
down my back
but the hole itself is dry
the wolves give me a sad, anxious look
“Fine”
I say
and they leap into me
and my heart beats so strongly that the world fills with blood.

I curl up naked,
my whitely pink skin surrounded by a field of red
my hair shorn no more than an inch from my head
and the salt from my tears could fill an ocean
but I get up
do my best to wipe off the blood that’s smeared all over

Poem 1: I Stand on the Surface of MarsPoem 3: The God of Life

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