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.