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You Are Free

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You Are Free

I saw the werewolf, and the werewolf was cryin'
Oh nobody knows, nobody knows, nobody knows
How I loved the man, as I teared off his clothes
                                                               - Cat Power

You have the bad luck of being born in Nowhere, Alaska,
In a huddle of shacks bordering on the forest.
Fenced in, littered with beer bottles and the open carcasses of cars.
Drunks fall asleep and freeze to death five yards from their front door.
Your own mother went that way. You know because no-one will talk about it.

You claw your way out of childhood,
The years stretch out while you fight your way through them.
Your father has a belt hanging from his bedroom door,
The butt of his rifle when he loses his temper.
Your sister's always anxious. She plays nice, aims to please.
She retreats to your shared room and plays your mother's records so she won't hear.

You refuse to be scared.
You slip out of the bedroom window while your sister sleeps.
With five dollars in your pocket, you let sleazebags buy you drinks,
Then stagger home, drunk, in high heels on the icy road.
Back in your room, your twin sister is a small child underneath her blanket
And you tell yourself that you look nothing alike.

You're bitten by a wolf wearing his human skin.
A stranger passing through,
A brute, a cage fighter from Anchorage.
You're eighteen, and in awe with his habit of crashing bottles, starting fights.
He fucks you in the back of his van,
He holds you down and bites you.

He covers your mouth with a dirty hand while you struggle through the changing.

That night you both squeeze out under the fencing to run through the forest,
Side by side like shadows, slicing between the trees
Below the dark void of a cloudless sky.

Wolf time is like a dream, he tells you,
You won't remember unless you let yourself go.
Don't go through wolf time with your eyes closed,
He says, don't be stupid, don't be scared.

You won't forget.

You remember the animal you killed,
You tell him of teeth ripping through fur and skin, biting into muscle,
The hot patch of blood on the ground beneath you.
He pats your face, he tells you, you're a natural, baby, you're a pro.

They kill wolves where you live.
Your own father's a poacher with traps in the garden
And you're desperate to be free,
So you follow the fighter out.

But once you're bitten you're bound to him,
Although you're bigger, stronger, faster.
The wolf in you knows that, so you both wake up bruised from fighting.
Still, he wraps an arm around your body in bed, reels you under.
For as long as I live, girl, for as long as I live,
He mumbles, half asleep, and you lie perfectly still against him.

He teaches you to be a predator even while you're human.
You learn quickly. You know you need to, to get away.
You cut yourself on broken glass in the street light nights,
Hunting for scraps. In the hectic city days
You wait for something bad to happen.

When he dies you finally understand that he was afraid.
You wake up alone in the snow and you don't remember.
You slip in and out of wolf time,
You are lost in the wild.

In the end, you huddle up in a crag on the lee side of a mountain.

And then you see him coming for you, walking through a blizzard,
Slipping and falling on the crust of the snow.
Black and red, and pink with blood, he's beautiful.
A man in uniform, but he's half turned wild,
No longer upholding the law. He is hunting.

I've come to bring you back in, he says.

But he is also escaping. He is hungry like you are,
When you get him close you can smell the want on him, betraying him.
It's thick and living in the frigid wind,
Like blue-bleak ashes blown from a log, revealing burning embers.

I won't hurt you, he says.

And he won't, because he can't,
Because there's a similar beast inside him.
He lets you dig under buckles and straps, to skin and muscles,
The rhythmic thrum of arteries where he's savagely alive.
Naked in the snow, his coat looks like spilled blood beneath him.

Please, he says, reaching.

He pulls you down, he takes your hand and closes his teeth around your fingers.
And you want this. You will take this.
So you place your mouth around the cool skin of his wrist
and watch the whites of his eyes as you bite into his flesh.

Afterward, he dresses quickly.
He straps himself in as if the uniform will save him.
The storm has died down, the air is thin and flat.
Far below are power poles, roads and houses.
The cold has drained the flush from his face, his body is shaking.

He asks, what is this, what have you done to me?

You look at him with disbelief, saying
Don't you get it, you idiot?
You are free.