Kathryn Merwin: Feral Child
Dina Sanichar was discovered by hunters
in the jungles of Bulandshahr, when they saw a human boy
follow a wolf into her den, running on all fours.
I. We measure our days in distance between bodies: my father was something like a carpenter. Snake-eyes and chewing tobacco, the kind that comes in tins, that lingers in the curtains, quick as a snarl in your sleep. His bird-eyes were grey, a color that reminded me of a grief I hadn’t felt yet. A quarter phantom on his father’s side.
II. I remember polishing alligator teeth, roller-skates with pink bows, Clark Bars stuck to the backs of my teeth: the sugar left cavities, but nobody noticed. They turned to root canals.
III. I remember her body, a hollow of velvet and Corona, sun-browned and peroxide-kissed. Cigarettes for fingers, she-who-cuts-my-hair-in-the-bathtub. I considered piercing my tongue. I considered running away in December. Trains thundered in my chest. I bled until my body felt as full and cold as the moon. Waning.
IV. My best friend’s mother told her to stay away from me. Bad family. She’s too much bite, too little mouth. She kissed a scrap of notebook paper with watermelon lip balm. Scrawled my name in purple pen. I smashed out the window of my father’s rental truck with that purple pen. Washed my hair with dish detergent.
V. I met a man with a forked-tongue. Showed him my throat and told him to bite. Our language bled together until we only spoke in shadow puppets. I cut lines with his credit cards and forgot that he could count his Decembers in sets of twenty. I slept with a butcher’s knife under my pillow. Wrote dirges on the blade for someone who never came back.
VI. I drank all the cough syrup in my mother’s medicine cabinet. There are a thousand ways to be sick. My best friend’s mother stares into me, her eyes looming together like cold, black stars. What’s the matter with you, girl? Were you raised by wolves?
Kathryn Merwin is a native of Washington, D.C. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, Booth, Blackbird, So to Speak, and Sugar House Review, among others. She has been awarded the Nancy D. Hargrove Editors' Prize for Poetry, the Blue Earth Review Annual Poetry Prize, and nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She is currently pursuing her MFA through Western Washington University.