Sunday, 20 December 2009

Call of the Wild Inside

This poem was written for an exercise, entitled 'The Feast', for a meeting of the Leeds Writers' Group. The Muse was lacking that week and so I found myself drawing on my library for inspiration!

I had been re-reading Jack London's The Call of the Wild (1903), a story written from the point of view of Buck, a wild dog who is taken from his home and forced to become an Alaskian sled dog. The dog subsequently becomes vicious from mistreatment and is saved by the love of a human. However, upon his master's death, Buck gives in to his inner wildness and joins a wolf pack.

I had also been reminded that week, of a German fairytale I'd heard as a child. I cannot quite remember the name of the tale, but seem to think it might have been something like 'The Elfreig' or 'The Elf King'? This is a story in which young women who catch sight of elves in the woods are compelled to dance themselves to the point of exhaustion, and eventual death, in a fairy-ring. They know of the dangers, yet curiosity ensures, the girls cannot help but look!

These two influences seemingly left a mixture of thoughts and feelings behind, concerning things that try to condition us out of being who and what we really are, and the very human temptations of our inner animal...its wildness, its curiosity, and its innate penchant for knowing what is 'wrong', and wanting to do it anyway!

Call of the Wild Inside

“The hunger,” he said,
as he walked in robes beside me,
“is a thing never sated.
One may learn to abate it, or
ignore it,
but never to escape it
for want, nor war, nor lovers.
One may walk a thousand steps with others
or swim alone a thousand seas
and still, he,
will hunger,
ever after,
for the feast.”

“What feast is this?” I asked,
as we passed through trees and woods and by the gentle brooks
of the fairytales of my youth.
“Of food,” he said, “Of nourishment,
of tender flesh,
of truth,
of lips and heaven scent…
A man may spend each penny earned,
all gold over
to childhood pixies
and the elfin folk of yore,
eat of fairy-rings and sugar-lace wings a day or two or more,
and still,
he will hunger.”

We reached a pool, a clearing then,
and the elf king -
He fell to his knees.
I cowered there beside him, beneath the canopy of leaves,
and he showed to me in the mirror of the water
a chained wolf who longed for the slaughter,
who howled with the depths of ravenous pangs,
whose ribs stood out and fangs dripped,
as he cried,
with pitiful longing,
at the palest of silver moons.

“For she…”
He said, to my eyes. “For you…he
will always hunger.”


  1. Ohhhh, great one!

  2. Whew! Intense. I love it. The imagery is spare, but rich and powerful. Lovely, lovely.