I saw once, in a rose garden, a remarkable statue of the Roman she-wolf and her twins, a reproduction of an ancient statue— not the famous bronze statue, so often copied, in which the blunt head swings forward toward the viewer like a sad battering ram, but an even older statue, of provenance less clear. The wolf had been cut out of black stone, made blacker by the garden’s shadows, and she stood in profile, her elegant head pointed toward something far beyond her, her long unmarked body and legs—narrower and more finely-boned than the body and legs of wolves as we know them—possessed, it seemed, of a great stillness, like the saturated stillness of the roses, but tightly-nerved, set, on the instant, to move. Under her belly, stood the boys, under her black breasts, not babes, as one might expect, but two lean boys, cut from the same shadowed stone as the wolf, but disproportionately small, grown boys no bigger than starlings, though still, like the wolf, oddly fine of face and limb, one boy pressing four fingers again one long breast, his other cupped beneath it to catch the falling milk, the second boy wrapping both arms around another breast, as if to carry it off, neither boy suckling, both instead turned toward you, dreamy, sweetly sly, as if to chide you for interrupting their feeding, or as if they were plotting a good trick… Beautiful, those boys among the roses. Beautiful, the black wolf. But it was the breasts that held the eye, a double row of four black breasts, eight smooth breasts, each narrowing to a strict point, piercing sharp, exactly the shape of the ivory tooth of the shark.

 
Copyright © 2009 by Brigit Pegeen Kelly. Originally published in Ploughshares. Used by permission of the author.

Poems by This Author

Song by Brigit Pegeen Kelly
Listen: there was a goat's head hanging by ropes in a tree.
The Leaving by Brigit Pegeen Kelly
My father said I could not do it,
The Satyr's Heart by Brigit Pegeen Kelly
Now I rest my head on the satyr's carved chest,
The Visitation by Brigit Pegeen Kelly
God sends his tasks


Further Reading

Poems about Sharks
Angel Shark
by Hailey Leithauser
Ants and Sharks
by Tomasz Rózycki
Ashore
by Ernest Hilbert
At Shark Reef Sanctuary
by Eva Alice Counsell
Beach Walk
by Henri Cole
Coffee and Oranges
by Joel Brouwer
Flying Fish: An Ode [excerpt]
by Charles Wharton Stork
Haunted Seas
by Cale Young Rice
I Wonder What It Feels Like to be Drowned?
by Robert Graves
In a Breath
by Carl Sandburg
Inheritance of Waterfalls and Sharks
by Martín Espada
Murray Dreaming
by Stephen Edgar
No Place Like Home
by Stephen Cushman
Ode on Dictionaries
by Barbara Hamby
Plague of Dead Sharks
by Alan Dugan
Seal Lullaby
by Rudyard Kipling
Sharks in the Rivers
by Ada Limón
Sharks' Teeth
by Kay Ryan
Shoal of Sharks
by Richard O'Connell
Song of the Paddlers [excerpt]
by Herman Melville
Submarine Mountains
by Cale Young Rice
Summer [excerpt]
by James Thomson
The Bluefish
by Isaac McLellan
The Maldive Shark
by Herman Melville
The Ripple Effect
by Jamey Dunham
The Sea is History
by Derek Walcott
The Shark
by Lord Alfred Douglas
The Shark
by Judith Beveridge
The Shark
by Isaac McLellan
The Shark
by William Henry Venable
The Shark's Parlor
by James Dickey
The Sharks
by Denise Levertov
The Sirens
by James Russell Lowell
The Steel Rippers
by Patricia Carlin
Tiger Shark
by Hailey Leithauser
Untitled [There, by the crescent moon, the shark]
by Shido
Upon Shark
by Robert Herrick
What To Do About Sharks
by Vivian Shipley
White Sales
by Allen Grossman
World Below the Brine
by Walt Whitman