No Wolves in the Woods

Jared Povanda

When your sister married Charlie, you wanted to punch him. Do you remember the weight of my arms around your middle? That ficus in the huge terracotta pot scratching our faces? The hall smelled of stale tobacco and male sweat, and I followed you out of the reception before the first dance. When you cried in the parking lot, I held you.

We rode up the coast to eat greasy burgers at a 24/7 diner. I dipped french fries in your chocolate milkshake, envying the way the grease from the burger dripped over your wrist. My cheek carried the imprint of your leather jacket like a scar.

Do you remember, that same spring, how we fell to our backs on yellow-green grass and waved to the dandelion seeds proliferating the air? You took my hand in yours, slotted your fingers between mine, and wouldn’t let go. The pollen was thick enough to eat. 

I wanted a storybook wolf to meet us. There would be a crossroads, a bargain, a mouth of vicious teeth. I wanted to be the scribe to your prince, the hanger-on to your hero. I wanted, in the sudden cool dominion of a shallow gully, to step onto foreign and wobbling ground beside you, magic baking into the dirt. Who needed solidity when I had you? 

I wish I could have taken you back there after you buried your mother. There was nothing natural about Jim Beam and those small cigarettes in the red box you carried. I couldn’t stop you from smoking. I didn’t know if I even wanted you to stop; you were upright, you were moving, air worked through your lungs. A drunk uncle propped you up by the piano and told you to play, but I stilled your hands before you could. Music shouldn’t be used that way. I held you as you cried that night. I held you.

And then you moved away; away from your sister, your memories, and me. October, a gash in the calendar. I tore out the page, balled it up as tight as I could, and buried it in the garden beneath the butterfly bushes. I called you, left messages, but you didn’t—don’t—answer. 

You need time. I get it. You need the planet to revolve backward fast enough for time to reverse. You need your mom.

But I do miss you. 

There are no wolves in the woods, and when I step into a crisp breach of shadow, I fall through the world. I never see you on these travels, and if I dream of your touch, you’re always a thawing car window, and I’m always at that slippery boundary of ice and water.

No one catches me as I melt against you. No one is there to try.  

Jared Povanda

JARED POVANDA is a writer, poet, and freelance editor from upstate New York. He also edits for the literary journal Bulb Culture Collective. He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and multiple times for both Best of the Net and Best Microfiction, and he has been published in numerous literary journals including Wigleaf, The Citron Review, and Fractured Literary. You can find him online @JaredPovanda,, and in the Poets & Writers Directory.

Art: “Leaves” by Kes Crow, Digital

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