My mother grew up in a forest in Eastern Poland in the 1920s and 30s. She could hear wolves howling in the winter, and she listened to her mother's stories and warnings and passed them on to me.
This is a poem about the stories my grandmother told my mom.
My Mother and the Wolves
In their log house in the forests
west of Lvov, my grandmother
told my mother tales in the winter
to pry her thoughts from the sound
of trees splitting with the cold,
exploding with a crack like that
of her father's double-barreled shotgun
A cat, she would say, can't be trusted.
It comes in the short spring night
and sleeps on the priest's chest
watching his adam's apple
as if it were some mouse hidden
under a blanket of stubbled skin
and then striking its sudden claws
through his skin into cartilage
And what of the wolves, she'd ask,
the nine wolves that in the winter's
grey stone dawn would smash
their bones against the door,
hammering like hungry seals
until the door splinters and the baby
is got at – even from the cradle
even from its precious sleep?
And listen, Tekla, my mother's mother
would whisper then, there are men
as bad as wolves that no door
– no matter how solid the oak –
will keep out.
So trust in Jesus
in the world of clouds far beyond
the frozen forests of this frozen world
Do this always, and fear the greedy hens.
My grandmother was shot to death by German soldiers. They also killed my aunt and her infant daughter. My mom was taken to Germany where she was a slave laborer for almost three years.
The poem recently appeared in Main Street Rag.
I write about my mom and her experiences in my book Lightning and Ashes. Here's an amazon link to the book. Just click here.