‘Rain on St Andrew’s Night’, Ana Gardner

Illustrations © 2021 Josep Lledó

 [ The world is Wolf to women, © 2021 Josep Lledó ] One heavy, solitary cloud
Burst over town the night of Wolf
When undead strigoi come to roam
The frost-glazed streets.

The town stays home
all night. We hang
Long, braided, fragrant garlic strands
On door jambs
And the window trims
To ward us from man-tonguéd beasts
Who’d lure us out
And gnaw our bones.

St. Andrew brings us year’s first frost
We leave out water bowls on stoops
To freeze by morning
Mat-de-lup (the wolf’s entrails)
Are said to freeze inside the bowls
And drive the beasts away
Until next fall
But if the water doesn’t freeze
On night of Wolf
If milder zephyr blows, not eastern criv,
And—worst of all—the saint cries tears of rain
It’s sad that wolves will choose a home
A babe in crib
And claim her for their own
And she will grow to bring bad luck to all
And pain

Rain washed our empty streets, that night
From eastern end of Main, to west
And not a step beyond—the saint cried just for us
His tears contained between town gates
I was a babe of three or four
And mother
Feared my fate

Grandmother—maie—cut a garlic clove
And moved me from my crib into her bed
They wailed long prayers begging I be spared
But maie’s mother scoffed
And said
No prayer safeguards girls from fool men’s fears

And putting on her slippers, rubber-soled
She shuffled, squeaking, to the church next door,
Unlocked it
(How, she never told)
Laboriously climbed the belfry floors
And rang the bells
(Her song, we didn’t know)
And the clouds broke before the hallowed peals

And then she went from door to door
And, crouched over the rain-filled bowls
She whispered words we didn’t hear
And made them freeze

She said to me: Don’t fear the wolves
Or cower before saintly tears
Don’t trust your fate to garlic prayers
Or neighbors’ legends
Or first frost
The world is Wolf to women, dear
And you must learn
To rip its guts
And fight.

And while town slept on
She taught me ancient, howling songs
And hunting tricks, all night

© 2021 Ana Gardner

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