The Last Wolf (NaPoMo)


Prompt for April 3, 2016, by Reginald Dwayne Betts, author of Bastards of the Reagan Era

Public world in private poems: Each day we experience the world fully, kind of. We consume news, we consume the world, we run from the world. Then we write poems that are carefully crafted silos. But, a person can get lost in the gold of a silo, fall down while staring into that beauty. What if we made poems like that? How would we? The prompt? Make a list of things you’ve noticed in the public. News items. Go back and look at a poem that’s in process. A draft. Now weave that public thing into the poem. It can be about the election or not. It can be from the back page of the local paper. But write a poem that seems aware of the world that produces it.

The Last Wolf

I saw wolves in a field,
springtime pups
leaping straight up in the grass,
rolling on their backs,
kicking their paw in the air
biting at everything, nothing.

A lone female watched me.

From behind me, a naked child ran,
toward the wolf pups,
her auburn curls bouncing behind her,
her hands reaching out ahead.

I called her back,
told her these were wild things,
meant to be free,
watched from a distance,
given space to just be.

When she touched the wolf pup,
shots echoed,
a mountain broke in half.
Pups fell, one by one,
disappeared into grass.

A final shot.
The dark head
of the female.
A final crack in the air.

Her blood pooled
under her shoulder,
the green grass withered
at its touch,
spread out in a wave,
turned everything brown.

The naked child
cradled the pup
in the dead field.

I ran to help,
fire snapped,
a trap sank deep,
dropping me flat,
immobilizing me,
redefining pain,
leaving me helpless.

The naked child rose,
patted the wolf pup,
whispered in its ear,
watched it rise from dust.

Side by side, they run
toward the mountains,
leaving a trail of purple
flowers in their wake.

 

This poem came out of a dream from the night before this prompt was posted. I think about the wolves a lot, and though people in the east don’t think much about it, wolf populations are a highly political issue in the west. 

In Oregon, the gray wolf was recently removed from the endangered species list–and there were only 81 wolves in the entire state. Across the western U.S., wolves are hunted down, and state laws have made it easier to decimate the populations–including allowing the killing of females with pups, increased tag allowances, deregulation of certain types of traps, and a lack of enforcement on over-hunting and out-of-season kills.

There’s a lot of misinformation about wolves in popular culture, and most people don’t understand how harmless they are to us; or, in fact, how beneficial this apex predator is to our ecosystems. You can get a quick understanding by watching “How Wolves Change Rivers.” If you have more time, watch the PBS documentary; you can find info here and here.

Here’s a few resources that speak to the state of the wolves in our country:

Those of us who want to help are often stopped in our tracks by the feat and hate that run rampant. Wolves are resilient, and will bounce back, if we stand back and let them be as they are. Our lands will be better for it, and so will we.

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