I saw once, in a rose garden, a remarkable statue of the Roman she-wolf and her twins, a reproduction of an ancient statue— not the famous bronze statue, so often copied, in which the blunt head swings forward toward the viewer like a sad battering ram, but an even older statue, of provenance less clear. The wolf had been cut out of black stone, made blacker by the garden’s shadows, and she stood in profile, her elegant head pointed toward something far beyond her, her long unmarked body and legs—narrower and more finely-boned than the body and legs of wolves as we know them—possessed, it seemed, of a great stillness, like the saturated stillness of the roses, but tightly-nerved, set, on the instant, to move. Under her belly, stood the boys, under her black breasts, not babes, as one might expect, but two lean boys, cut from the same shadowed stone as the wolf, but disproportionately small, grown boys no bigger than starlings, though still, like the wolf, oddly fine of face and limb, one boy pressing four fingers again one long breast, his other cupped beneath it to catch the falling milk, the second boy wrapping both arms around another breast, as if to carry it off, neither boy suckling, both instead turned toward you, dreamy, sweetly sly, as if to chide you for interrupting their feeding, or as if they were plotting a good trick… Beautiful, those boys among the roses. Beautiful, the black wolf. But it was the breasts that held the eye, a double row of four black breasts, eight smooth breasts, each narrowing to a strict point, piercing sharp, exactly the shape of the ivory tooth of the shark.
Copyright © 2009 by Brigit Pegeen Kelly. Originally published in Ploughshares. Used by permission of the author.