The Fourth Lunation
"The wulf will come when he will come."
That's what she had said.
And so, because I love my mate
I was happy then to wait
When my pelt did not at first appear.
There were some nights then, for sure
Muscles cramping, flexing, eager for the hunt
My teeth a-teeter on some brittle edge
My skin alive and sweat-drenched, trembling –
But never more than that.
And so, today
A dozen weeks and more along
Still unfinished, stuck in this pale skin
Her words ring faintly, like an ancient peal
Of church bells venerating some lost god
Far off downwind.
I chose another woodland walk today
In hopes, perchance, to best recall that time
Most wondrous and sylvan
When my mate's fang kissed my skin.
Instead I find a Burn of Sorrow, Burn of Care
Gloom Castle lowering above
Scotia's full and maudlin roll-call of its melancholy.
It is Dollar Glen.
An unholy gash, this chasm of deep green
There are pockets here that ne'er have seen
The sun since memories began.
Such strange, unseemly denizens
Outworldly, old, and rum
Must call this place their home!
What low and little daylight dribbles here
Blinks feebly, quickly, and is gone.
And yet, with Styxian grim humour, the gorge is water-splashed
A ironic nod to purity
As if this year's doomed could ever be redeemed
Much less baptized.
The woods are birdless, listless, soundless
The scents are those of countless summers gone
Its sights, their fading glories.
I crush rowan berries, desultory, underfoot.
My breath, alive, escaping
An arrogant intruder, fogs the deadness of the air.
In turn, the woods breathe out a still and steady sigh
Of cold and spent fecundity.
Dried husks of campion, so many cinerary urns
Or perhaps akin to children's rattles, though long bereft of every charm.
Dehiscent arcs of willowherb, wildly arching, in pale balletic swirls
Protonic, as decay-trails in the bubble chamber –
Or an old man's thinning pubes.
There are pallid, glabrous ashes, skeletal, draconic
Conifers, as well
As if touched by far Tunguska
In toppled ranks do lie now, row on row.
Sad, starving hoverflies, drowsy in the cold
Suck listlessly from asters struck all barren by the frost
As from a mother's withered teats gone dry.
Upon the beaten soil below
Moribund dung-beetles, hapless on their backs
Like sickly scarabs, weakly galvanic, row the air
As if to beg the god of all the carabids
For some swift and painless end.
In this satanic diarchy of dissolution, entropy
It is the lower plants that hold full sway.
An apocalypse of fungi
A copious corruption, now confirmed
In puffball, stinkhorn, fey agaric
Blewit and boletus riot up the dead trunks in their saprophytic bloom.
Rust-ridden, tumour-flecked, the listless leaves of acers
Hang forlornly in their queasy, bile-bright green.
A fallen oakleaf lies there
Filigreed, more holes than whole
Splashed, peversely like a childhood daubing
With bright spores in its blossoming decay.
All summer long, and high aloft
It proudly caught and held the airy rays
Now grounded, in its last autumnal gasp, it seems to say:
"One day you'll look just like this, too."
Out of the woods at the last
I sit, and watch bats swarm above the spate.
And there I find Selene in her waxing mood.
She rolls up in munificence, as on some godly high-wire.
Above the ghostly Ochils she's a milky, gibbous orb – imperfect
Which is to say that she, like me
Is not yet fully made.
It is my fourth lunation since the bite.
It is a myth, I know
This moonish tie-in to the fangs and fur.
Instead, in swelling now as all else fades
She seems, above all else, to mock me.
My fingers twitch. There is warm touch, a sudden nuzzle
A young Alsatian bitch, and by her scent just two weeks spayed
With the naïve and sexless art of every ingénue
Has approached, to seek and find my skin.
I should not be surprised, for after all
She's somewhat wolf herself.
I pet her idly. Her human hollers. Tail wagging
She flicks an ear, and blinks, and with the lithe carry of her youth
She bounds away.
The dusk, it settles, deepens
Selene is blazing higher
Moondogs lie there, gleaming, on her either hand
They're lesser beings, naturally, but constant even so.
I feel my nostrils flare.
...by her scent, just two weeks spayed...
I glance down then, to where her muzzle touched
To find, wide-eyed, beneath the laughing moon
Keratin that thickens, strengthens
Ushering wolf claws.