The Wolves

(Contessa, Alpine Italy, early 1950s)

It was on the eve of my eleventh birthday
that I saw them.
The winds had howled all through the day,
bringing from the mountains the flurry and blast of snow
which settled thickly in the village street.
About midnight I awoke, and taking a pitcher,
cast a blanket about me, descended the creaking stairs
and hurried up the street to the fountain at the plaza.
The whole world outside was under snow’s gentle, eerie spell.
In the shadows where I walked, it lay a luminous blue;
behind, where hung a solitary lamp,
it spread in a placid pool of brilliant white.
The night air cut cold into my cheek; with every step
there came a crunch and squeak beneath, and with my water now
I pressed the blanket to my face and hurried home.
Upstairs again I flung the shutters wide so I could gaze
upon that airy miracle that only snow creates.
And then I saw them! Suddenly, around the corner
where the lamp cast its otherworldly glow.
A pack of six or seven, loping up the Via Verdi,
and the light of the lamp drawing silver from their coats.
Then black spirit shapes in the blue of the shadows,
trotting with a sure confidence that proclaimed
distain for man and for his works.
I held my breath as immediately below
they halted at my footmarks, milling round, their snouts
pressed to the snow. But in moments they were gone again,
with a sureness of advance which spoke of some mission
they pursued, some errand of the darkness known only to their kind.
They crossed the plaza – where only minutes previously
I had drawn my water – and were gone again into the night.
Now all was still and empty again, and it would have seemed
like a dream to me, if it were not for their tracks
mingling there with mine. It was both wonderful and terrifying – 
the silent, assured stealth with which they passed.

From ‘Journeys in Time’

The Via Guiseppe Verdi on the evening of 9th January, 2017

4 thoughts on “The Wolves

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