Transformation, a Foxtale – a poem by Tamara Miles

Transformation, a Foxtale

Born a fox. Fox in the hen house.

Foxhound. Foxtrot, a slow, flowing dance.
Three step, feather step, natural turn.

Silver fox. Crazy like a fox. Fox on the run.
Slick like a fox,
quick like a fox, hide in plain sight like a fox.

Whiskey. Tango.

Hunted like a fox, the out of breath
got to get somewhere, got to get under it,
got to go deep fox, when chased for fur or fun.

Fox in flight, chased by dog or horse.

Red fox, brown fox. Quick brown fox jumps. Fox in the night.


In Japanese literature, elite and folk,
the fox is often a shape shifter, a symbol of transformation
and duplicity. The rice-god Inari has fox servants
and is said to be a fox himself.

Kitsuni, the outsider.
Myoubo, celestial fox.
Nogitsune, wild fox.

In one of the traditional Japanese stories, a man shoots a fox
with an arrow, wounding it, but is unable to catch it.

On his way home, he sees it running past him with a flaming brand
in its mouth. It sets his house on fire.

In another story, a man saves the life of a vixen who later visits
him, explains that she is only temporarily human and offers herself
as his brief concubine. Sin, he thinks, and says no, whereupon
he hears this song:

The hat thou lovedst,
…………….Reed-wove, tricked out with damask,
……..Ah me, hath blown away…

and the fox is free to become fully human, and she leaves
the man behind.


Aesop’s fox, who says he doesn’t want grapes, never did,
after he tried to reach them and couldn’t.

In several illustrations of this scenario, the fox first walks
back and forth admiring the alluring grapes on the vine.

(It is the same with a man who loves a woman only
as long as she loves him and after that begins to call
her names and say he never loved her at all.)

Foxglove (splendid purple flower-bells
with sparkled throats — highly toxic,
also called digitalis.)

All this I offer on the word of a fox.


Tamara Miles teaches English and Humanities at Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College in South Carolina. Her poetry has appeared in a variety of publications including Fall Lines; Pantheon; Tishman Review; Animal; Obra/Artifact; Rush; Apricity; Snapdragon; Cenacle; RiverSedge; and Oyster River Pages. She was a 2016 contributor at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and a resident at Rivendell Writers Colony in August, 2017. She hosts an audio poetry journal/radio show at called “Where the Most Light Falls.”

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