Diane Wakoski

Blue Ice Wolf


Like a paper with a bent corner, haphazardly
stuffed in an accordion file, I was lying 
at midnight in a hospital room. 
It was cold enough 
to keep a yellow rose in a Styrofoam cup 
fresh for 10 days 
without new water. 
There was only a film 
between waking or sleeping, nothing 
opaque. Eyes open or closed 
absorbed the same images.
Whether it was 
a waking sight, or one from sleep, is 
only surmise. But with quick
solidity, it was there, standing 
oblique to the corner of my bed.

Tall as a man’s shoulder, 
and motionless, 
his eyes looked straight ahead, 
rather than at me. I was shivering, 
as I often did there at night, 
but seeing this presence, I forgot my 
discomfort and murmured, 
as those who are ill 
speak without sound, 
                                “the blue ice wolf”. 
His coat, as Stevens says of junipers, 
was “shagged 
with ice.”

Even though friends have told me that my apparition was 
benevolent, that wolves are protectors, companions, 
kindly escorts, some part of me 
thought I saw one of death’s messengers. It 
felt Egyptian to me, yet neither a jackal 
nor Anubis of the desert. 

No, the ice was there, like the diamond chips of it that were my 
only sustenance that week, shaping 
or glinting his coat until it was 
crusted and bejeweled. The Blue Ice Wolf 
was there to accompany me as I trod 
underground paths. Now, when I peek out 
from that place I was a few weeks ago, 
I see his shadow still alert, 
watching, not 
me, but everything that 
comes near, listening 
I think 
to my papery breath 
that moves and rustles, even in recovery. 
He is watching over me, 
as if he is a father. 


I didn’t know until now that 
he was my Diamond Dog, 
once born of the ash heap near the orange grove. 
In this morning’s incomplete dawn, the creature lopes next 
to my invisible King of Spain. 

Like feet, soft feet, bare, 
sponging into the carpet, there is light, 
outside the window, from all 
the planets, the cosmos, 
the blue house 
where students live. I see 
open pages of the geometry text 
and hear Sarah’s coated syllables 
explain the dancer’s foot pointing out. 
It’s the bird wing in the arch, 
though even its extension is pliable 
and the fractalled knee, all 
movements shaded, rather than crisp. 

Hilary saw 
pillars in her mouth, and Adrien said, “Architecture is power.” 
cling to my palate, wisps or rags 
left on hangers. Cavafy saw the boy’s 
yielding face, but I look in a mirror 
and see the bent foot/I want to hold it 
in my hand, his foot, the padded muscles of Robert’s arms 
around me/what longing/what is there 
but touch? 

Inside, I place one foot over 
the other, know we always have our own 
flesh to accept and reassure us 
in the morning 
when everything looks ready 
to — what? — 
wrap us up in a quilt, 
keep us warm, 
notice the toes frothing outward? 
Teasing air, 
taking for granted each breath, 
remembering the softness, 

even in the blast from the icy polish 
and shine off my father’s military shoe, 
transformed into the shimmer of the dog’s diamond print, 
then the Ice Wolf’s blue paw, 
finally the King of Spain’s luscious royal foot 
gloved, glinting gold; and I know 
that at last he/they’ve come back, 
and are waiting till it’s time for me to follow them. 
Any morning, if I glance up quickly, 
when facing the wood of a Norwegian Maple 
across the street, 
I can make out their shadows.