Off the Path · Ann Howells

Quick breath on my neck,
nip of sharp teeth,
large, rough paws molest my body
every night in dreams. I want
the taste of him,
Grandma says: Every young girl
yearns for a bad boy
Grandma says: You'll cry tomorrow.
Says: Find a nice woodsman,
settle down. Wolves
aren't the marrying kind
Grandma's old and desiccated,
has forgotten what it's like
to be young. I could drown
in the fug of his fur, wake trembling
and damp. Every day
when I go to Grandma's house,
I stray from the path,
sing torchy songs, let him know
I am waiting. My basket is full:
baked chicken, and sweet
ripe apples blushing red.
I'll invite him to picnic,
know a very private place
beneath a sheltering sycamore,
a field of purple lupine.
Grandma says: Chicken
is not what the wolf wishes
to feast upon.
She says,
He craves your flesh. Oh,
I hope she is right. I, too,
have a hunger. One day
I will arrive at Grandma's house
disheveled: twigs in my hair,
grass stains on my cloak. I will
be smiling; I will
be holding the wolf by his tail.

Ann Howells edited Illya’s Honey for eighteen years. Four chapbooks, two published as national contest winners. Three books: Under a Lone Star (Village Books), Cattlemen & Cadillacs (Dallas Poets Community Press), and a new collection, So Long As We Speak Their Names for spring release (Kelsay Books)