Some werewolves’ claws you can’t see

Werewolves evoke an image in our minds, one of man turned beast, but only by the light of uncaring moon, only by the influence of dark forces that cannot be truly understood.  Changing shape at night to prowl the darkness, to consume.  But “shape” is not always a physical thing.  The shapeshifter in Lucille Clifton’s “shapeshifter poems” is not physically a monster, not turned by some nefarious outside force.  In the dark of night he can simply shed his skin and become the vile beast that he truly is inside, able to do unspeakable things to an innocent.  What spoke to me most was the final stanza.  In 4 the poet says that this is a political poem, a war poem, a universal poem.  This rapine, this reprehensible act is one that has been committed a thousand times before and seemingly will occur a thousand times hence.  She breathes this poem because this monster continually stalks her home.  There is no safe place for her.  In 2 we see that no one can come save her, she cannot even find peace in her older life, looking back on the nightmare that she lived.  In 3 we see her only solace, desperately hoping that this night, this one night, the moon won’t shine and he won’t “change”.  But this brings us back to 4, that wan hope.  She tells the poem at the end of the world, we get to wonder what it is.  Her “poem at the end of the world” must read like 3, that desperate hope that tonight will not bring the monster back.  But there is no one to hear.

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