“Max in Wolf-Suit” by Sandi Leibowitz

“Max in Wolf-Suit” by Sandi Leibowitz

He sailed back, in and out of days.
Mommy hugged him,
Daddy fondled the tufted
wolfs’ ears of his hooded PJs.

But, supper hot in his belly,
he could not forget starvation’s pangs
before he’d learned to kill,
nights when he had scraped a pile
of leaves to make a bed,
shared with bats the refuge of a cave,
on that isle where time
stretched strangely.

New-old little body now tucked warm
beneath fresh-laundered sheets,
he imagined he could hear the birds scream
as he’d seized them from their nests,
the gush of blood down chin and chest,
taste of raw poultry foul in his mouth.

He hadn’t won a kingship
just by staring into all their yellow eyes.
He scanned the little hands,
his arms and thighs,
re-blooming guileless pink,
for traces of the battle scars.

Staying king required
daily proof.
First to swing the vines,
best at hunt and howl,
strut and grunt,
there wasn’t a chasm he hadn’t leapt,
a boar he hadn’t taunted.
He’d swum out farthest from the shore,
closest to the whirlpools,
bumping shoulders with the sharks.

When he came of age,
he had caressed chill
scale and beak,
descended into foetid fur,
risked claw wounds, love bites
piercing clear to bone.

One day his old boat bobbed
close to the coast.
He’d splashed to meet it,
grasped the tiller,
sailed in and out of years,
slipped the self
he’d come to think of as his own,
returned to this foreign country
called “home.”

Max in his child-suit
waited for the skin to grow,
stretch as time had stretched.
The wolf-suit grew too,
inward and invisible,
fibers fusing with his soul.

The second time he came of age,
he was ready for it.

To love him was to mate
the hot and nervous nucleus of the cell.
But it was not all gleeful rumpus.

Too late I caught the lupine glare
behind the man-mask,
too late learned

he was still the wildest thing of all.

Sandi Leibowitz is a school librarian, classical singer and writer of speculative fiction and poetry. Her work appears inLiminality, Stone Telling, Inkscrawl, Mythic Delirium, Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year 5 and other magazines and anthologies. A native New Yorker, she has ridden in a hot-air balloon over the Rio Grande, traveled in the footsteps of medieval pilgrims to Santiago de Compostella and visited with Arthur in Avalon.