Gentle Hands Red With Meaning

A hunter’s eye, that sees nothing and misses everything but fear: he sees green, hears water, smells footprints. Beaten by the sun griddling off the concrete. He is out of his time, once a slave, once an owner of slaves. Reeks of grave earth and urine, wolf hair and adonis; beneath the heavy coat a belt of coral pinches at the hard flesh of his belly. Borrowed nipples heavy with milk, he longs for empire builders.

He kills by daylight, clears a wide circle around the trash and train-swept rumble of his domus, steel and leather. The noise and metal of the trains frustrate and bore him, but there are olive trees growing beyond the fence, and that is familiar. Olive trees and sea air: he remembers stories learned soldiering of a wager between gods.

Nights he is a wild thing, one with raccoons and coyotes, feral cats, drunkards. Brings deer down in the middle of the high road and leaves an accusatory finger of entrails pointed straight at the heart of downtown: I am Caesar’s, no one else may touch me.

Ishmaelite

Once taken up, the mantle is not put down so easily. This belt of moonstone bites deeper and deeper into my flesh with each passing cycle. Ah, that I had not ventured to the crossroads! Not struck that deal with the man dressed all in blue and black! I have bartered my birthright for a mess of pottage, and no blessings remain to shower upon me, the rightful heir, firstborn son.

Wolf.

Clumsy in the night, tail dragging heavy and awkward, crashing into trees, torn by bracken, mouth full of thistles and dew. No beast of the fields, I, nor the woods–outcast and shunned by man and wolf alike, a mercenary in the endless war of all against all. I feast myself on mice and carrion, and wake, one week out of four, retching, retching, Roman girdle biting always deeper into my thighs.

Ah, that I had not been so foolish!

Young Andrew

She was sometimes a wolf, and sometimes a woman. Not one and then the other; rather, the way a picture of a candlestick is also the picture of two faces in profile. In either shape she had the same fretful, warm brown eyes.

His legs were broken. It was maybe the pain from that that kept him confused.

She sat next to him and leaned her head against his shoulder. Her hair had a dry, dusty smell, like rotting leaves. “What does it mean?” she asked. “Why did they break your legs?”

Andrew sighed. “I did a filthy thing and this is my punishment.”

She thought about that while he struggled to stay conscious. The day was fading and he wanted to see the sunset. “And your arms? Why are they tied?”

“Because I did not repent the filthy thing I did and instead threw it in their faces. Therefore am I bound.”

She went around the tree behind him, her skirt or tail brushing against his side. “And this good red gold? Why did they leave it thee?”

Andrew wept. “Because this was the reason for the filthy thing I did, and so they left it me.”

The sun had set and she came around the tree again, all wolf now.

*

Her brothers, waiting at the edge of the forest, wondered at the silence over the woods.

Young Andrew

Young Andrew is counting his money.
Bright, butter-yellow coins, king-faced, heavy coins.
The shadow of the tree spreads over his lap, spreads over his money.
The shadows of the leaves spread over him.

They have broken his legs and tied him by the neck to this tree.
His arms they have left him, whole and entire.
He runs the money through his fingers.
The light flashing from the coins distracts his eyes.
The coins fall into his lap, two, three, four.

The trees reach up for the sun.
The shadow of the tree spreads across the clearing.
No light flashes now from his money.
There are noises in the woods.
He screamed when they broke his legs, screamed when the rope bit into the flesh of his neck.
Now he is silent.
The money clinks as he counts it.

There are eyes watching him from the spaces beneath the trees.
Young Andrew sees the eyes only.
They will not move until it is nighttime.
He sees them coming from the trees, spreading over the lawn, long tails flowing, white teeth and green eyes, Sennacherib…
But night is not yet.
Young Andrew is counting his money.
Bright, heavy coins.