Laura Johanna Braverman – Hour of the Wolf

Braverman LE P&W 2 Nov-Dec 2023

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14th Anniversary Edition, Live Encounters Poetry & Writing Volume Two Nov-Dec 2023.

Hour of the Wolf, poems by Laura Johanna Braverman.

Hour of the Wolf

Walking in the time of COVID-19 


Children play in the modest concrete plaza
of St. Georges church, ask me in Arabic if the dog 
bites – smitten by her white fur, it seems. Two
women, arm in arm, walk back and forth across
the lot without masks; the air feels cloying
under mine. Police tell me the sea walk is now
off-limits (people have been gathering). I resolve
to explore the village, should know this new place
like my old sidewalks – the bric-a-brac dealers
who left food for cats, the music shop, back alley
shortcuts – don’t want to be just a house on a hill,
apart. Not quite here, no longer there. But, still –
I’m tethered to my guide. Her wolfish ancestors
understood: intervals have their strange rewards. 


The dog stops, intrigued by a young man
as he fills a car trunk with grocery bags

from a market at the corner of Rue 62 –
we turn onto the one-car wide street, and

pass by an ochre stone house with dark
wood shutters. Behind one open window,

a woman sits: white streaked hair pulled
back in a red band, she lifts a cigarette

to her lips. Further down the road, children
play between parked cars, shout ‘Kalb –!’

as we walk by, and a group enjoys gurgling
water pipes round garden tables (so much

for social distancing). We climb the hill
then, back to the house where my husband

sequesters in a closed room, quarantined –
and on a low roof, I see a woman hanging

laundry over wires, her children’s feet splash
in soapy puddles – while below, in the bay

evening sunlight spills pockets of honey on
the sea; the day falls towards the in-between.


The road smells of garbage, the sour-sweet ferment of bags piling up –

(What now? Is not a good question to ask: pandemic, economic collapse)

Midway down, after the gated El Khoury property with its cyclamen patches,
trimmed Tuscan cypress and orange trees, with its brass plaque dated 1963 –

I see two figures disappear behind a green wire fence –

Curious, we wait, dog and I, until after they have gone and find a hidden
chapel grotto hung with faded images of Mary and Mar Charbel –

Statuettes too of different sizes and dust-encrusted fabric flowers –

My companion sniffs the stunted candles and a metal coin box with a lock –

There’s much to ask the saints for – today I have nothing in return –


The lady in the window faces out today, holds a white phone
receiver to her ear, deep half-moon shadows under her eyes
– a clipped garden rose hangs from my hand. When we reach
the chapel grotto, I place it at the feet of one sky-robed Mary,
then decide to enter the vacant lot by the sea-facing road.

Gravel and concrete patches mix with weeds and clumps of gold
aster, a poppy here and there, pale violet scrubs and foxtails,
lantana blooms; the sunbaked herby scent reminds me of
home-state canyon walks – I try to find the source while the
dog sniffs too, for other things I assume before a man comes
walking in with a little girl – six or so. They like the sweet
white puff that is the dog, and though with the virus I’ve
avoided any kind of contact, it seems unfair in this moment
to deny an introduction –

The man pats her head and I learn the girl’s name is Maria.
As we move along, the man starts sideways Jumping Jacks
across the lot, dog whines and jumps to see a lizard scuttle
up a scarp. Maria scoops rocks into a red plastic pail and
near a scrawny oleander bush, I see a dead mouse – supine,
limbs sprawled out –


I leave a pebble as an offering today –
place it at the same feet where my rose is now
a wilted fuchsia puddle. On the chapel altar, two white wax lumps
with drowned wicks struggle to burn. 

In the alley flowering with jasmine
bushes, a woman wearing pink pajamas circles
a gated concrete yard, while a Chihuahua yaps from a stained roof
two floors up –

a Mexican dog in the Levant. Mine
is Siberian I answer the driver in the roundabout
who asks if she is a Berger Suisse. My wolfish totem? I’ve read of
canine soul-guides,

steering us beyond the known –
finding the lost in the glow between dark and light.
In this wilderness of severance, I hold to her. We are way-finders
of the unmapped.

Not Yet a Memorial

What are we at the edges – the almost –
in the humid shadowland beyond
each garden lamp?

Each softly hums,
throws out a ray of cold blue light –
on a crook of eucalyptus branch, and there

a patch of paving stones. Sprigs of papery
bougainvillea flame electric fuchsia.
The dog’s pelt

flashes pearl.
She hunts for things beyond the glow
while crickets sound their rhythmic chirring.

We pass the statue of the patriarch and stop –
the bronze echo of my in-law flares
where lamplight

liberates it from
the dark: metal wrinkle, deep-set eye,
jaw skin slack. Here, there is no hiding place.

The Art of Leaving

I mail myself electronic letters of how it feels
to quit this place

phone photos, too – the unburdened shelves,
unburdened rooms –

the details of fifteen years disappear: the days
of waking up,

and going down – of making this once strange
country home –

a box holds receipts from five years ago: trips,
medical bills,

a preschool evaluation of one son, sheaves
of scribbles

and swirls that will never see a garbage can –
the place

that saw two children born and grow, and gave
my healing

shelter, empties and turns ever more silent –

it seems, in its unburdening – windows widen,
light surges in

on concrete, wood, quiet walls, as the years
withdraw –

© Laura Johanna Braverman

Laura Johanna Braverman is a writer and artist. She is the author of Salt Water (Cosmographia Books, 2019). Her poems have appeared in Reliquiae, Plume, Levure Litteraire, Rusted Radishes, New Plains Review, and California Quarterly, among other journals, and in the anthology Awake in the World, vol. II. She is currently a doctoral candidate in poetry at Lancaster University. Austro-American by birth and upbringing, she lives in Lebanon with her family

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