Lucy Wainger


Here is the story where language
can’t save you: rabid adolescent
scrabbling across the wet asphalt

of your high school’s parking lot, chasing
or being chased by some imaginary
monster — real as the bright taunt

of moon glinting off your bared teeth,
ridiculous claws. Ridiculous moon.
Impossible sun: an assignment you’ll do tomorrow

if you make it to tomorrow — if you blink
awake in the woods, maybe, body bruised
like ripe fruit, bits of other animals

stuck between your teeth, artifacts
of unimaginable hunger. Right now
it is imaginable. Right now

you are running because you can’t stop
running, because the thing behind you
or ahead of you won’t stop running — a monster

which, like you, was a myth
and then was not, did not exist until it did,
until the night cracked in half, sank

its jagged edge into your thigh
and renamed you. A werewolf
is a creature for whom language is binary:

howl vs. silence. The rest
is petty detail — crabgrass fur
and the sweatiest hunger, an ache

arching upward, away from the earth
with its fragile claims and faulty
evidence, contracts broken

like human bones. Here is the story
where language can’t save you,
where every word bursts out of its shape

to howl at a singular moon. In this story,
the asphalt is wet, your parents still think
you’re asleep in bed, and the present

is a thing chasing you in the dark,
a four-legged thing you won’t have a name for
until after you’ve gotten away.