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Poetry

Imagine yourself an old wolf: lean
and ragged, belly shrunken beneath a ribcage
as bowed as a galleon’s undercarriage,

shoulders broader than your painful hips,
and paws the size of a lion’s. You terrify
each living thing you encounter,

voles and rats ducking into holes, rabbits
humping their soft backs, propelled
under bushes by back legs strong as their flesh

is tender. A year of drought: the fields
blown to dust, the wild animals fled
to some place where they can scrounge

a meal. To you, the world smells
of the damp fur of groundhogs and deer,
and you hunger. Your teeth ache

with the need for slaughter. You catch
the scent of human sweat, and calculate
how low you must crouch to jump

for the throat and catch it, how snap
your jaws to crush. And yet the man
approaching you holds out his hand,

a hand which might contain (it has
before) some meat. He speaks, and though
you do not understand his words,

your fear recedes. He lays his palm
on your head, and you kneel,
your hunger now a weakness inside you,

but you feel like a dog might: calm,
as if you belong to this man. Other
humans have feared and beaten you,

which raises your own hair, but he
looks into your face, rubs his thumb
against the ridge of your snout. He

offers you some warm beef,
blood running from his fingertips,
and you eat, tearing the flesh

but careful not to bite him. When you
have licked the last juice from his fingers,
he stands to leave, and you follow

into a village where many people
stare to see you enter peacefully.
He walks with you to every house,

and at every house, an offering
to feed you: a bowl of milk, a sheep’s
liver, the chewy offal of a hog.

No longer ravenous, you slowly eat your fill,
then lie on your side as children rub your fur,
making their high-pitched sounds.

For the rest of your life, you never
hunger, fed at any door you pass through,
beloved and belonging. Would you

call it a miracle if you knew
that wherever you went,
someone provided for you?


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