Posts filed under ‘Jan Sellers’

The Wolf

Jan Sellers


I cried wolf in the pasture. No-one came.
“This is the child,” they said, “who lied before,
who dreamt a wolf was scratching at her door,
and roused the town!” And so I took the blame.
I cried wolf in the night; they mocked my claim,
beat me and left me on the hard dirt floor
where I wept, cold and heartsick, bruised and sore,
knowing the beast they feared would come again.

My mind drifts out. A shadow on the moon,
a hunter in the night behind the storm,
I wait for the dark ending of the year.
See now, the window’s open, and the tune
the wind plays, raises hackles. I change form.
I am the wolf child. It is I they fear.

I’ve always been fascinated by poems that explore alternate interpretations / versions of fairy tales or myths. Perhaps the finest example of such work I can think of is Anne Sexton’s brilliant ‘Transformations’ but there are many others (Agha Shahid Ali’s take on Red Riding Hood springs to mind).

Today’s poem, taken from a Virago anthology [1], interests me only because of its last line. It’s a fascinating inversion – the idea that the thing we fear may come from within and not from outside, that the child’s appeal is at once a cry for help and a warning, and that it is, perhaps, we who create our own worst nightmares, by excluding from our midst those who most want our acceptance. The rest of the poem is competent but ordinary, but that only contributes to the surprise of that final line.


[1] I know almost nothing about Jan Sellers – The Wolf is pretty much the only one of her poems I’ve ever read.

September 7, 2006 at 7:47 pm Leave a comment