By William Wenthe

Featured Art: Flow by Rachel Ann Hall

Houses on a bluff; below them, off-limits
to construction, a few acres of watery woods.
A clear simmering of spring water
glazes bright moss and gravel, slows
to a bog, where a marsh wren reveals
its single note. Slow growths of mistletoe
on thick-gnarled limbs of elm and oak.

I’m here with my two wolves—
my daughter and her friend, both twelve,
who’ve tied to their waists lush tails.
They prowl among the folded smells
of leafmold unleashed by winter sun.
They run, they fade behind trees.
From the woods I hear long high howls.

Is it only make-believe? Each day, they feel
an approaching metamorphosis.
They’re at an age for trying things on:
clothes, hair, such baubles that dangle
from pierced ears, language fanged to affront
their parents—whose worst fear remains
the child might be no predator, but prey.

But these two wolves are at play.
Are they too old for this? In Finland,
my daughter tells me, teenage girls
ride stick-horses, in organized events.
It’s like dressage, except the living
and too expensive horse is assumed
into the girl herself. Spine and head convey

the rider’s attentive, upright carriage,
while legs perform the horse’s measured moves.
It’s ignorant to presume an animal
will share a human’s feelings in a human way;
just so, I can’t presume to think I know
the nature of these wolves, or cultivated horses
the Finnish girls become, as if to say

what’s best might just be something else
than human. The houses crowding
the edge of bluffs know nothing
of these changelings, who bark and bay,
wander the unruled ways
of the leftover woods, and in becoming, renounce.
Unless these houses breed them too.

William Wenthe has received awards from the NEA, Texas Commission on the Arts, and two Pushcart Prizes. In 2023, LSU Press will publish his fifth book of poems, The Gentle Art, which has much to do with the beautiful art and complicated life of James McNeill Whistler. Poems appear recently or forthcoming in AGNI, Threepenny Review, Southern Review, Plume, and Literary Matters. He teaches the reading and writing of poetry at Texas Tech University.

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