The Refrain

I'm in the woods
I am

why am I in the woods?

what woods are these? I

have I been here

the moon is up

I think it's July,
or August

the sky is still light and warm
these woods

why am I in the woods?

what woods...?

what do I remember
was walking

a dog?
no, I don't have a dog

I was walking

there was the moon, the same as


I was in the woods
behind the school
and the children had all gone home
and I sat on the field
and saw a path between the trees

it was so quiet here
not an insect buzzing
not a bird in song
and then a sound: the leaves,
I turned and saw the moon,
so full and soft and welcoming.

I must have fallen down,
hit my head,
been concussed
because I'm sure that was last night –

unless it's still today

my hands are aching and my shoes are
all torn at the toe

I'll rest a while longer,
in the quiet,
beneath the big bright moon –

I feel – odd –
I feel –
I feel –

I am so hungry
I want to run
and run and run
I can see
all the creatures in the dark
my eyes have changed: I can see the eyes
of the bats
just overhead

now I am
in these woods
my woods
I can hear
the beagles baying
at the farm down the road
I can hear a doe
who doesn't yet
scent me

Put my claws in the dirt
and my muscles behind them
and I know there's one other
of my kind out tonight

the moon sings a song and I sing
the refrain
I sing the refrain

and I am hunting, hunting
and running and claws and teeth
and the moon sings to me
sings so loud
sings like Dolly Parton
and I sing the refrain

and chase
chase down
deer, white-eyed falling over
I am on them
such tenderness
in my mouth
in raw venison
the soft white
my white teeth

and I am dozing in the cool
starry hours
until something small wakes
in the leaves
too small for me,
I leave it to the owl

in a nest
by a tree
I sleep and the moon
slips away,
lace over crochet over stone

is it still today? I've
lost the calendar
but it's coming on dawn
and I've eaten
so many wild things
and I am
a wild thing

at the edge of the woods
a bird sings the sun over the trees
I've got dirt beneath my nails

I can't find my shoes

I remember singing
in the woods

About the Author

Kendra Preston Leonard is a poet, lyricist, and librettist inspired by history, language, and the mythopoeic. Her chapbook Making Mythology was published in 2020 by Louisiana Literature Press, and her novella in verse, Protectress, by Unsolicited Press. Her work as appeared in publications including Red Ogre Review, vox poetica, Gingerbread House, and Barzakh. She has collaborated with composers including Lisa Neher, Jessica Rudman, and Stephen Vincent Casellas on operas and songs. Leonard is also a scholar whose work focuses on women and music, and music and screen history. Find her on Twitter @K_Leonard_PhD or visit her site at