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Circe and the Wolf

by Ilona Bartnicki

I've lived most of my life as a caged wolf.

Fed, bathed, given warm blankets, basic needs well met within 4 walls.

The only taste of wilderness was moonlight through an open window.

But I was still a wolf.

And I howled her sweet song each month.

One by one, they pulled out my razor-sharp canines,

Hoping my bite wouldn't pierce their skin like it did.

But I was still a wolf.

And I chomped down hard when I was provoked.

They clothed me in fine silk dresses,

Put flowers in my hair and pearls around my neck.

Perfumed me with oils of rose and peony.

But I was still a wolf.

And my fur poked through every fabric they put on me.

All this time,

I fought back

Until my nails went dull and my howl was lost to the wind.

I didn't feel like a wolf, then.

When the summer came and went,

Winter blew in,

I gave them my coat to keep them warm.

It's only fair, they said.

For they had sheltered me for so long.

They took and they took,

until I was left stripped bare,

A pile of bones on the floor of a cage.

Then, I forgot I was a wolf.

One night, as the sun eclipsed the moon, rising over the mountains,

I heard a faint drumbeat coming through the forest,

In through the window,

As I wavered in and out of sleep.

It merged with my heartbeat and said one word to me:


I noticed then, the cage had been unlocked.

But where could I go?

What could I do?

I was as vulnerable and raw as could be.

So, I stayed, for a time,

Cowering in my cage.

Warm, but alone.

Until I herd the drumbeat again,

This time in my heart,

A little louder:


So I took a step. Just one.

I took a deep breath. Just one.

And I took one more.

And another.

And another.

And I took one more step.

Then another.

And another.

A star-lined path of rose petals opened itself in front of me.

It grew brighter and more fragrant with each step I took.

Following the sound of the drum.


As I walked, my eyes opened fully, gaining a golden hue.

My canines grew back, sharper then before, as did my claws.

My coat grew wild,

And I was filled with a lust for blood.

First, for those that caged me,

A hollow, icy rage ran through my bones.

Then, for all those who hunted wolves in the first place.

I wanted their heads on spikes.

But most of all, for myself,

Because I forgot I was a wolf.

I howled, loud and long, for all to hear that I had returned.

Calling in my long-lost pack.

I tore through anyone who crossed my path without respect,

left their limbs in a spiral, covered in blood-soaked rose petals.

Vengeance was the only protection I had in this wilderness.

No one was allowed too close.

Even my pack was kept at tail's length.

I kept on this way, with blood on my teeth.

A trophy, and a warning.

Until I heard the drumbeat again,

Deep in my soul.


Before me, appeared a gateway to a garden.

A trellis of peach-colored roses, humming with the buzz of honeybees.

As I walked through, I found myself intoxicated by the aroma,

Remembering how heightened my senses are as a wolf,

Its sweetness permeating every cell in my body,

Until I toppled over into the bush.

I cried out in pain,

Wondering how something so sweet, so beautiful,

Could cause so much pain, so much blood to be let.

I heard the drum again.

It came from inside the garden.


I walked into the garden,

Opening into a spiral path, bordered by fresh blooming lilacs of purple and white.

As I neared the center of the spiral,

It opened into a pond, with water like glass.

Frogs floated on lilypads among sparkling pink lotus flowers swaying in a soft breeze.

There was something shining inside the flowers, but I lost focus as I noticed

At the edge of a water sat a woman,

Glowing with kindness.

Eyes white as the moon above on this night,

Hair golden as the sun,

Dressed in a robe of pink anemones.

In her hands, a drum.

Singing, as we locked eyes.




With tears in my eyes,

She washed the blood off my coat,

Pulled me into her,

And held me as she sang,

My darling,

You are still a wolf.




You are the jewel within the lotus.

Come home to your heart.

Let love follow you in.

Let go of your past.

You are safe,

Now and forever.

You are my kin.

And you will always be a wolf.

As her song faded away,

I faded too,

Into a long, restful sleep.

And when I awakened,

My eyes began to glow like the moon above on this night.

My coat turned golden like the sun.

I stood on 2 legs.

I walked into the water,

Washed myself clean,

Put on a robe of pink anemones.

I walked the spiral path,

Out of the garden,

Onto a star-lined path of rose petals,

Leading me back into the world that once felt so cold.

With a drum in my hand,

I sang:

I remember.