I wanted the wolves to let me stay
where I was, to let me keep what I had.
If meat lay rotting in the yard, I’d step
around it. If mold grew in the gutters,
I’d breathe the spores. The house’s outer wood
was sad and grey, but inside it was new enough
for furniture. She brought sofas and her own
made table. We had a fireplace and a mantel
with a photograph. But the wolves sent grief
running through the storm drain. They sent rage
that made the housewood warp and bend.
They forced me out from there with nothing
on my back and no guide. I listened:
voices in the leaves at first, then voices
of the dead and then, finally, voices of the living
ran up my veins like chlorophyll
thickening a stem. They took me
to mines and watersheds.
I breathed. I spread my arms.
I met two men: a half-girl I lost; and a second,
starving and heartsick. He sang me
to my knees, he heard, he loved
the voices in me. The scars on his chest
inked into morning glories and I held fast
to his listening ear at my sternum.
When he grew violent and frightened,
I dimmed their gnash and howl,
staved off the wolves that gathered
in the weak apartment light. The voices
cut out. My breath went out
like a windstruck candle. Rigid-mouthed,
sleepless under the helicopters; the wolves
sent heat, sent visions of my own arms
cut open into pools. Only because
I’d repelled them. I walked into the woods alone,
the snow a balm to my throat:
spine-bent, following their tracks.
I want to be what I was.
Megan Alpert is the author of The Animal at Your Side, which won the Airlie Prize and was a finalist for the National Poetry Series and the Julie Suk Award. Her poems have appeared in Copper Nickel, the Denver Quarterly, Colorado Review, Crab Orchard Review, Verse Daily, and many others. As a journalist, she reported for The Atlantic, Smithsonian, The Guardian, and Foreign Policy.