The Fight Within

The bell clangs like a grave
digger’s shovel striking stone
and she pounces, ruddy hair swept up,
fists clenched, sour green bruises
blooming across her knuckles.

She doesn’t feel the blows,
only tastes the blood in her mouth
beneath the wolf ’s mask, rubber and sweat,
and waits for the familiar three taps,
her opponent giving up, bested again.

Three knocks at the door.
Ears, eyes, teeth.
Three strikes of the woodsman’s ax.

The ref drags her from the floor
as cheers echo through the darkness.
From within her disguise, a hunger carves
her body hollow: breaks rib and spine,
jawbone and tooth, until she is let loose,

but never free of the wolf.

—Shelly Jones