by Katie McCarthy

My mother is a wolf
        long nights spent alone wandering the mountainous range
        visualizing death on the forest floor
        pawprints left on the soft lunar earth
                                                warm and piny
        bristles and thistles stuck to the fur of the haunches
                knotting, gnarling, stabbing
                the thigh
                burrowing into the flesh
                to be concealed by matted coats
My mother is a wolf
        who has rejected the pack
        taken her two pups by the scruff of the neck
        and left the civilizing forces of kin

        watches the sunset and the moonrise
        with no howl
        only snaps and breathing

        abandoning her native tongue has left no empathy in my mother’s eyes
        her wolf smile beckons
        and promises milk from the teat
        but as I lay my mouth upon her nipple to suck
        my ear traces no heartbeat

        and yet

                the milk that trickles onto the tongue and down the throat is warm and
sour fresh

        my belly
                      –       full

        my fur
                      –       soft

I roll onto my back and lick my coat in satisfaction
My mother is a wolf
        whose prowling turns my world to shadows
        my eyes that beg and give compassion must close to the ripping
        of muscles and tendons, the breaking
        of bones
        of the predator in our home
my mother’s jaw clamps tightly around her
the shattering of teeth and bones are hers
— but she cannot know
My mother is a wolf
        driven towards extinction
        poisoned, trapped and shot
        tagged and surveilled to protect and ensure the
        wetness of her chaffed nose
My mother is a wolf
        whose power lies in cunning anarchy and rage

        whose power lies in the uncompromising love for her pups
              failure to comprehend their cries and whines on cold floor
        attacking demons that fragment trust
My mother is a wolf
                        she lies alone
                        curled on the clay floor
                        eyes closed
                        nose tucked into tail

                        the earthshakes

                        and she does not awaken

Katie McCarthy:  hip breaker, money taker, word maker.