(from Negro Mountain)
Wolves came up the driveway and through the side yard of the old house—this was in kindergarten time—and I stood still though I was frightened to be in their midst and they took note of me but did not bite or threaten me. The light was light I had known—by then— having seen it in the hour before a thunderstorm: dull, bitter light, and everywhere though without apparent source. The wolves had ragged gray pelts—bad fur, tufts of it—and their hindquarters were skinny in comparison to their very big shoulders. They’d come in apparently from the street, Liscum Drive, and onto the property (which was nearly an acre and had once been a farmstead), and they parted around where I was standing. It was almost literally a wave of them, those wolves, as though they’d come up the hill from West Third Street or somehow got through the chain-link fence of the V.A. cemetery that traced the hill on Liscum Drive. A white friend wrote to me, the human figure passes through the animal pack unharmed. And she said that she saw the dream as being not about the wolves as much as passing through adversity, this exchange decades after the dream itself, which had been a thing of moment—visual, tinctured with obvious anxiety—and current in my memory for that time before the year she and I met. Make no mistake, dear and articulate friends, I knew it was an unstable moment. My thumbs were different, I’d seen, from one another. Beyond the driveway had been pear and walnut trees. One passes through a wood, or a track does. A dull feeling overtakes you in the field. There had been a gate at the driveway but only the posts remained, grown through by the hedges that stopped on either side of the entrance from the street. What do hills summarize? Origin stories? Right and left separated long before this. Bait me, love —I can pass until I speak.
Copyright © 2018 by C. S. Giscombe. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 14, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
“The poem is based on a dream—one of the first dreams I can recall—from my childhood. The physical appearance of the dreamt-of wolves, still sharp after sixty years, was likely drawn from a Time-Life book illustration I had seen prior to dreaming, though I’ve not attempted to verify this. The key word in the poem is probably pass—it recurs and references spiritual, physical, and racial issues. Yet the original dream vision, I hope, persists. The summit of Negro Mountain is the highest point in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”
—C. S. Giscombe