Beauty’s Human Scent

by Thomas Davis

As cold as morning mist upon a hill
Above the lake that danced light from the sun,
The woman stood and felt a warning chill
That screamed at her and made her want to run,
But, frozen, scared, she turned toward the wood
And shadows where a massive white wolf stood.

She did not move. The wolf’s wild, pale green eyes
Stared balefully at her, its body tense
With energies she somehow felt, the skies
Above them darkening with clouds so dense
A twilight lengthened shadows, made her feel
A rush of fear she thought she should conceal.

Eyes fixed on her, the wolf stepped from the trees
So slowly that she barely saw him move.
She could not make her rigid legs unfreeze,
But stared back at the wolf as if to prove
The fear she felt was courage free of fear
Though pale green eyes, half closed, made death seem near.

The wolf crouched down as if to spring at her,
But then its head jerked north toward a stand
Of young white pine, eyes concentrated, fur
Around its neck alive. The woman’s hand
Moved, broke paralysis. A great gray bear
Rose up inside the pines, the wolf’s cold glare.

The bear glanced at the woman as she backed
Away from wolf and bear, then, anthracite
Inside its eyes, glared at the wolf, strength stacked
Against a spirit brimming with a light
That darkened morning skies and choked the day
With time suspended as it stalked its prey.

The great bear roared. The white wolf bared its teeth
And growled, its spirit kicking up a breeze
That blew into the bear’s black eyes beneath
A dead still canopy, the forest’s trees
Now covered with a brooding, bristling night
Contrasting with the wolf’s bright, shining white—

And then the wolf was gone, the bear alone.
It stared at where the wolf had stood and felt
The emptiness beneath the trees, the drone
Of singing wind as rain began to pelt
The ground and run in muddy rivulets
That clouded in the bear’s stirring spirit.

At last the bear fell down and stuck his claws
In earth, the human woman haunting him:
The fear inside her eyes, the wolf’s white paws
Prepared to spring into the stunning hymn
Of beauty circling her, the way she held her head
As wolf’s eyes counted her as prey soon dead.

The bear sniffed stormy air and found the path
She’d used to flee the wolf and him and stalked
Toward impossibility, an aftermath
That could not be, that mocked him as he walked
In air perfumed with beauty’s human scent,
A woman’s song of being, heaven sent.


Filed under Poetry, Thomas Davis

9 responses to “Beauty’s Human Scent

  1. Ina

    Wow, you do these stories in a poem so well!

  2. Timeless. A mini epic. I picture this story being recounted to a spellstruck group by a shaman at a winter’s fire.

  3. Such a tour de force, to tell a story in verse as masterfully as you have done here, Thomas, and to such smooth effect that it seems natural, effortless. (Though I’m sure a yeoman’s effort was involved!)
    For me, the story itself raises perennial questions–of both scientists and poets–about the sentience of non-human animals: what do they know and feel? Do they have a sense of humor? Imagine? Appreciate beauty? Certainly we humans have imagination and can’t resist anthropomorphism….otherwise, Disney wouldn’t be such a mega-success! I know when my dog cocks her head, I wonder what she’s thinking, and can’t resist putting words in her mouth! (By the way, Christine Moran has done poems in which her dog, Jack, speaks). After several readings of your poem, putting myself in the woman’s place, my science-side still has many questions…..would this drama really have worked out so inexplicably this way? Then my poet-side tells me, ah well, all is possible in imaginative literature. And this, after all, is what we’re about on a poetry blog.
    Mucho kudos, Thomas!

  4. Gosh Tom this is wonderful! You are so good at this type of poem, or any poem for that matter! As Cynthia says it seems so effortless; at least it does to the reader. 😊

  5. extrasimile

    Well Thomas, you’re going to have to be my ears and eyes in the woods these days. And you almost convince me that regular meter and rhyme is viable [for me, of course it is for you] with, say, your second stanza—I’d take ‘balefully’ out of there [seems forced]—but otherwise this is as close to perfection as we mortals need to be. And surely the kernel of this poem was its final two lines. I can easily imagine composing the poem just to get there. Interesting how much a confrontation in a dark wood runs through our literary landscape. They’re scary, but seem to guarantee that something is real out there. This might the time to reread Frost’s Snowy Wood poem. Interesting too is the ‘stance’ of the woman here. Not quite a woman warrior, strong and aware, but…what the hell is she doing there?
    The last two stanzas don’t quite answer this question—thankfully. Ambiguous and perplexing, they dance with the sunlight on the lake—but somehow do not fade with its mist. The bear stalked impossibility? Well, so does this poem. I wonder, does it, or do we, ever find it?
    …an aftermath
    That could not be, that mocked him as he walked
    In air perfumed with beauty’s hum an scent,
    A woman’s song of being, heaven sent.
    Excellent work.
    [By the by, consider how the poem would change if it ended ‘heaven-bent’.]

  6. I find the woman kind of ghost like even though she was clearly prey, but she seems to slip away as if she was not really there at all. I enjoy the way the bear seems to love the woman…This is a beautiful poem to read from start to finish.

  7. I’ve enjoyed this, Thomas, and also the responses to it from others. The poem has an atmosphere of great mystery – there is something tangible at first, but then (thinking with the scientific side of the brain as Cynthia Jobin might say) a degree of unreality or magic creeps in. Is this magical realism? I like the regular stanzas with their metre and rhyme – picking up on Jim from Extrasimile – which I feel help to carry that sense of enchantment. There’s a what’s-it-all-about? question in this as well as a what’s-going-to-happen-next? plot-line. I think the length is about right for your purpose (I postponed reading it until I knew I had plenty of time). And I notice the link between the title and the last couplet – you knew where you were going, or you recognised where you had been!

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