The House in the Meadow
By Emily Raabe
The wolf comes in July.
You open the door because you live
in a house in a meadow
and understand yourself to be
more than your body; bull thistle,
ox eye daisy, Klamath weed, fir.
Marjoram on window shelves, baby's
breath behind the house, small
spots of dirt on the hands.
The wolf wears the costume
of a man; blue jeans and a shirt, but is
nettles and bloodwort,
beetles clacking, caws in the digger pines,
water pooling red as rust.
The wolf takes his costume off
and ruins your house
meadow grass watching you run
with what looks like a dog at your back.
run through the thickets the river
to houses that buttress the hill
the blacktop to flag down a car I keep pushing
and dragging you pulling your arms
to make you run faster and almost
the blacktop the houses the yellow
of rescue I'm grateful and say so
you turn and fall backwards
just turning to check on the
breadcrumbs spun into
the forest your loosening fingers
house yawning with sugar
eyes counting your knucklebones
moon on its side
your small brother watching
the dull steel of morning the grinding
and grinding he rattles the bars
and shouts at your braids standing out
in the wind for god's sake
stop running stop running lie down
One winter the meadow behind
the little green house filled with beasts.
The snow in the high country
emptied the peaks, and coyotes came down
to look for their meals in the space
between frozen ground and snow.
They slept in tight bunches but ranged
winter mornings close to the house.
This was the winter of fires
in the stone fireplace, quick jig
to the outhouse, open tumblers
of jaegermeister at four pm.
We thought we might finally be animals
because we felt the outside world.
Then we began to wake before dawn
bristled by voices running like water
blue shadows heaped in the meadow
something like the cover of night
ringing the house, thick fur
standing up at the neck, noses
cocked for scent. We thought
it might be the animals, watching.
Night to us was cocoa in a mug, blood
running tender under the skin.
What did we know about anything?
Beyond the thin green walls
of the little house, a thump and toss
of brown, a flash of white escaping.
She would like to lie down under the silken weight
of a man and not feel fear.
She would like to walk into the falling cape
of twilight alone.
She agrees it was like lightning; eighteen years old
and raised on myths
Reading after how she learned it, leaning in to love
the wings that took her.
No: it was like falling in the dark over a stone
hidden until you trip.
Women, she knows, can sometimes be hurt
and learn to live easily again.
She will never live again without a dog to watch her
or uneasily, a man
I knew before I knew because I smelled him:
wet wool under the stairs and behind me sticky
locks, flat mailslots, no savior for me there
just him with his cheek on the wall like a child
fists tucked under his tipped-down chin.
I used to think (when I thought about what
it was like for you) of jumping from the high rock
over the Merced river; long enough in the air
to regret the leap, but then the landing
in the cool green pool, the quick swim to the edge,
the limbic system already on to other things.
But there in wintertime Manhattan, gripping
blunt and useless keys in the company
of my own adrenaline-scented dark-eyed man,
I realized it wasn't like the river at all and then I knew
what went on and on for you, the moves
from getting out unharmed to getting out at all
to simply maybe living and so I ran and I was saved,
and only later did I think about your message,
which is something I have been waiting for –
don't the dead ones always signal to those
they left behind? I was looking for peace
like the flat of a sheet I could snap over my head,
or a light in the kitchen that would not shift, something settling
like hayseed to let me know that you were fine,
but instead I got this one word: Run, and this
must be how it felt to have angels bring you news:
filled to the rim with a blazing sight
so absolute and so unwelcome
that it doesn't seem to have a proper name.
Then one day, it was amazing, she escaped. Yes, sometimes it is like that. She got up from the broken-down ferns and shook her lovely shoulders back and ran, yes, she ran, faster than the dark wolf, faster than the stories they would tell about her later, her red hair burning behind her – that's how fast she ran, you see, so fast her hair caught fire, and her feet turned into wings, and her beautiful fingers flew up and away and she ran beyond the neighbor's house (which had been her goal, get to the house and he won't – ) but no need, no, never anymore for the neighbor, or the men in windbreakers who dug up her garden, or the harnessed dogs that knew to go to the river, no there never was a need for any of them and they just stayed on in the city and never came – no never came at al — and she ran until she was gone, not tired, just gone, and you may not know this, but I will tell you; the papers got it wrong – she did get away and she stayed there.