Barefoot Poetry

SS Matthews

A Season of Wolves (beginning ch. 1)

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Scars of Flesh and Soul (part 1)

I was at one time an inn keeper, a husband and father generally contented with family life. The years of my youth I shared with my beloved Anne and together our middle years were spent in the raising of children. Being a good and honest woman, Anne labored long hours in the operation of our business and never did she complain. As our days passed, with six of our nine children for assistance; those being the scoundrels to timid to set out in the world to seek their own fortunes, our life together was humble and without great incident.

She was tolerant of my faults, for since the time of my childhood, I have known a strong affinity for the wild-ways of the woodlands. Into adulthood and beyond, I have found it necessary for the sake of my sanity to depart periodically for the seclusion of the forest. Though I knew Anne to be the wiser, it was often under the pretext of needing to secure meat for our table that I wandered and sometimes remained away for days exploring the wilder places. To my shame I would abandon her, leaving her to tend to our business and those of our children to lax to attend to themselves. However, blessed with a buoyant attitude toward life, I never knew her to share an unkind word with anyone, nor chastise me for my reclusive nature.

I knew it also to be her way to go wandering the meadows in search of herbs for use in our meals and in the distilling of healing oils. So returning home after one of my excursions, I was not surprised to find her gone and did not suffer from immediate alarm. In response to my inquiry regarding her weeping however, my youngest daughter reported that Anne had been taken away by the police, accused by a neighbor of performing acts of witchcraft.

In my heart I knew Anne to be innocent of any harmful activity, for never in all our years together did I hear her whisper ill toward anyone. I cannot think of any reason why another should lay such an accusation upon her, except that such was the hysteria of the time. Doing all that I could to obtain her release, before her innocence could be declared by the court, my beloved took ill. Like a wild flower placed in a vase without water, she did not suffer for long in her cell.

Anne’s passing from this world was tantamount to the candle illuminating my path through life being snuffed by a villainous hand and with the extinguishing of her light, I soon became lost in the dark. In the days that followed, I made disheartened attempts to continue with the operation of the inn for the sake of my children. But no longer was I able to find it in my soul to care and drifted ever-further away from them. The misery of Anne’s loss was a wound that would not heal and, left open to the elements, soon became hopelessly infected.

Each new sunrise found me more withdrawn with unreasoning anger tending to erupt without warning. Unable to control myself, I began to lash out at those around me. Helpless to halt the cancerous growth taking root in my soul, I could not bear the touch of another person, or even to respond with reason when spoken to. I was left at odds with everyone and everything familiar to me.

As for those who had done ill by Anne, I could no more forgive them their part in the tragedy than I could forgive myself for being away when she had the most need of me. Swallowed entirely by the shadow of my guilt, the life I had known finally became a pain I could no longer endure. So it was that one day I set out to go hunting with the intent that I would not return. Leaving behind a letter to my daughter, I surrendered the management of the inn to her and those other of my children who wished to maintain it. My grief being too much to bear, I was determined to find either my death or solace in the wilds and cared not much which it was that I found.

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Author: SSMatthews

Author of The Moon and Rowan Wolfe and Wolfe's Banes.

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