By Maggie Mascal
“The witch [sic] was so proud of her beautiful breasts that she retained these in human form and shifted the rest of her body into the usual shaggy wolf shape.” Marika Kriss
They hung from her like gold-tortured lobes—those
of actresses or tribes that point from brain
to heart. Her heart was smart: swallowed
and valved to bring in tides, send tides away.
She had the things she wanted; these two she
would not share with the moon (that sick, scabbed sore
who, relentless, grates herself to a sliver and fills
herself full with blood my teeth steal.) Transformed
she’d pray—I’m perfect. I am sound and still
scraping this ground with better than your mouth—sing
with slicks and strokes. I stretch out to down—feel
what feeds pressed flat in filth. Alive. Alive
I sing. To me. To me. To me. To me
and no one can say I’m not human.
Mouth that has lost its lips to the moon—stop screaming
“Red! red! red! red!” you are dead.
Mouth who stretches, flush out flesh. Angry
are you? Are we? Now—let’s not be
red! red! red! red! You are dead,
only friend. But we can go together. I am,
are you? Are we two?—lets not be
Angry: Still and wet and red, red, red
only friend. But we will go together. I am
sweat-slicked and pulling hairs;
Angry still. And wet. And wet. And red.
You are leaving me, leaving me, are leaving me
Sweat-slicked and pulling hairs
here are the teeth and the hands like dead grass.
Are you leaving me? You are leaving me. Leaving me
here. I am here. (Mouth, I hate your hunger.)
Here are the teeth like hands, like dead grass
crunching…but it will be piping and bones.
Here I am. Here, mouth. (I hate your hunger.)
Through my own mouth I’ll hear
Crunching. Yes—it will be. Piping and bones—
Mouth stretch! Flush out flesh! Angry—
through my own mouth I hear my
Mouth that has lost lips to the moon (stop) screaming!
If that’s a fly on you, beloved neck,
that mars your amaretto silk with eyes
that give you thirty eyes,
I’ll swallow him and this
whole day to hell (to burn) and back.
If I could wish your fine hairs wings and see
them beat like dreaming eyelids wasting days
and days, I’d wish the moon
and all her astral ways—
that pull that pulls my flesh from me
and to the strange and highway pink that oils
beneath your pretty skin and wants (like gold-
en calves want emerald grass)
me—dead. If I could hold
together—if I’d be loyal
to you and not to gravity—we’d live
‘till dreaming died and nothing changed. We’d live
and stay the same like two
big books that never give
their pages up to hands (and if
they did they’d tuck their words into their dust
and swallow self to gray.) This still of ours
could rinse the moon and make
the night day dressed in scars
too thin to last. Yes day would trust—
but never taste—the night. If I (if I
would) wish my form away I’d still want to
drain and swallow yours, love.
Fly from here—and I too
will fly from this kiss with teeth white and dry.
“In the days when Saint Francis dwelt in the city of Agobbio, a very large, terrible and ferocious wolf appeared [sic] who not only devoured animals, but even men.” La Fioretti
St. Francis tame with your
……..the beast. The beast has eaten
the brave. The brave have lined up like Christmas
lights and been sieved through teeth
….like tinsel. Bless,
……..with bleeding hands, the child found torn
like bread. Be a conduit for us on this matter.
Town, stay so, so still. Swal-
….low your men. St.
……..Francis has a miracle
heart and a monastery in his throat.
And in it is finality.
And in it is the law.
And in it moon and night will slide
each other clean and raw.
And when we come here, smooth like chant,
We’ll breathe the moon like air.
Our howls will fill the world like dolls,
And blood will run like prayer.
There is nothing in Lycanthropy (werewolfology) about grieving. There is copious documentation of different aspects of the werewolf—prescribed rituals of transformation, recipes for killing the transformed self, Papal statements on the importance of werewolves—but no one, not even the werebeing itself—has mourned the mystical transformation from man to wolf.
In transformation, something is inevitability gained and something else is inevitably lost. In the werewolf’s transformation, what is lost is not necessarily a desirable or undesirable trait but that which holds one accountable to a reason which can distinguish between the two.
This transformation is even more compelling when one considers the remarkable autonomy omitted from our current werewolf lore. Many of medieval Europe’s werewolf attacks were in fact passionate, intentional, drug-induced killing sprees, and the real werewolf can transform at will—he need not wait for the moon. Also, it is only the instincts, and not the memory of the beast that are lost to the mind upon returning to the self; a man knows what his beast does, and he chooses transformation again and again.
These poems are meditations on transformation; a juxtaposition of that which heals and that which kills—and the frightening slippage between the two.
1. Baudelaire, Charles. Artificial Paradise: On Hashish and Wine as Means of Expanding Individuality. New York: Herder and Herder, 1971
This text gave me insight into how one author chooses to obsess over, and inhabit transformation/alteration of the natural self. I was especially interested in the slant that it is through this alteration that we access the most natural, most ideal self.
2. Bynum, Caroline Walker. Metamorphasis and Identity. New York: Zone Books, 2001.
Explores questions of self/identity and its relation to bodily transformation. She looks, historically and philosophically, at the importance placed on mutability and duplicity
3. Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tale, The. New York: Random House Inc., 1972
4. The Wolf and he Seven Little Kids, The Lord’s Animals and the Devil’s, The Moon etc. Interesting to see what wolf/dog connotations are persistant in this genre.
Doyle, Arthur Conan. The Hound of Baskervilles. New York: Random House Inc., 2002
Good creative work that explores the terror aspect of werewolves.
5. Howling, The 1981
Great visuals. Creepy werewolf community.
6. Kriss, Marika. Werewolves, Shapeshifters, and Skinwalkers. Los Angeles: Sherbourne Press, Inc, 1972
This book, with chapters such as How Weird is Were?, The Pagan Werewolf, The Christian Werewolf, and Can Werewolves Be Domesticated?, began my interest in the subject and is wonderful. I see a lot of attitudes and language that will come from this text and assist the tone of my poem.
7. Otten, Otten F., ed. A Lycanthropy Reader: Werewolves in Western Culture. Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press, 1986.
Varied scholarly perspectives/theses on werewolfs.
10. Metamorphoses. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986.
Beautiful and broad descriptions that put my werewolf topic in the context of a huge and mythic context of transformation.
11. Werewolves: The Myths and the Truths, A Ritual. http://members.tripod.com/alam25/printer/ritual.htm
Interesting article on self-transformation of werewolves.