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: & Poem that Cries Wolf

by Claire Wahmanholm


future: to become another thing:

to feel the air ring

with songless, sudden

weight: water will soften

every saltless land:

inside the silk gland,

the spider’s unspun gossamer

sits liquidly like early summer:

church bells anneal into time:

bird bones melt beneath the lime

trees: skin moves toward itself

across a sore: half

a night away, a war

is renamed into another war:

half of my cells become

yours: your name

becomes a better universe:

Poem That Cries Wolf

Like all the other poems, it is full of dead children.

Terror-gripped, they have been dropped by the nape on my stoop.

I am relieved to carry them back inside the lines

of my house—I, who have done the gripping, who have been

the wolf. I who am the boy crying for witnesses

against my own rabid imagination. My mind

is a snarl of corners around which death is always

waiting: a wilderness so burgeoning, so over-

run, I cannot see for the lung-pink oleander

sheltering each sharp thing. So the poem is an orchard,

or a house—something gridded into rooms or rows, where

only one version of every possible event

in the universe grows. The death of a child happens

safely here, beneath a dim sun-less light, or within

these thinly papered walls. It is pulled down from the clouds

of possibility as if through a lightning rod.

The groundwater carries it cleanly away beneath

the roots of the orchard. I rebuild this dummy house

every night. I close the windows against the tangle

of the actual world, where lightning can strike over

and over without boredom or belief and nothing

is saved. To admit I play this game is to turn on

all the lights and leave the door unlocked. Come in, come in,

I have declared myself a believer in magic,

have dared to imagine my children are safe. Outside,

the real moon casts oleander shadows on the wolf,

the wolves, whose blood is my blood, who have been waiting for

the light to strike their eyes, for the door to open wide

enough to finally be unclosable. It happens

now. It has already happened. No one is coming.


Claire Wahmanholm is the author of Redmouth (Tinderbox Editions 2019), Wilder (Milkweed Editions 2018), Night Vision (New Michigan Press 2017), and the forthcoming Meltwater (Milkweed Editions 2023). Her poems have most recently appeared in, or are forthcoming from, Blackbird, Washington Square Review, Descant, Copper Nickel, Image, and the Academy of American Poets. A 2020-2021 McKnight Fellow, she lives and teaches in the Twin Cities. Find her online at


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