Thursday, November 15, 2018

Wolf, Wildlife Refuge by Joe Cottonwood

Gandy the tawny wolf picks me
from a crowd of gawkers at the fence,
leans in sniffing, studying. Gus the keeper says
Gandy’s keying on your aftershave.
Nope. I’m gray-bearded, unshaven.

I ask if Gandy is an old wolf.
You’re very perceptive, Gus says.
Nope. Saw it in his stiff movements. Like mine.

I seem the only one engaging Gus or Gandy
while spectators aim phones, capturing us
in digital cages.

Gus says wolves can smell cancer or arthritis,
helps them select which moose
to cull from the herd.

Gus says Gandy still acts like
the alpha wolf, hates competition.
They keep him penned separately
so no one gets mauled.

Gandy steps to the fence.
From his throat, a low growl.
Like an anvil, the snout.
My joints ache.
And Gandy stares at me. Hard.

Joe Cottonwood is a carpenter by day, writer by night. Self-taught in each. His most recent book is Foggy Dog: Poems of the Pacific Coast.


  1. It’s a novel in six stanzas and I was transported. Now I’m back and worried about Joe - I think he should show the poem, should it be factual, to his doctor.

  2. Glad you like it, lorac. It's a true story. Thanks for your concern. So I went to my doctor:

    The doctor has curly black hair
    bouncy feet
    He licks your wounds
    with thoughtful tongue
    The doctor plays tennis
    without a racket
    Guards you
    from dangerous packages
    delivered by nervous people
    No squirrel, no cat, no bumblebee
    can threaten you
    The doctor cares not
    for politics
    only food
    and tennis balls
    and you

    1. Animals often have personalities, sometimes good ones. In time even the touchy ones can learn to trust. Often like us.