Lesley Wheeler: "Red Wolf Howl"




Their cries rise sweet and high like questions, cross

each other’s tracks in the air, the wildest din

you have ever heard.

                                    Some rangers caravan

with tourists down a gravel road. No one

can see the wolves: they hide among the pine

and cedar, rusting in the pocosin,

trailing the white-tailed deer. While everyone

parks, two guides hike closer to the breeding pen

and howl encouragement. The canids listen,

but why should they answer us? Some insects moan

to sharpen the silence; secret frogs complain.


The group gives up. It’s nearly dark. Our van

loiters as the other tail-lights vanish. Open

windows. Then we hear them. They ask, and ask.



Lesley Wheeler is the author of Heterotopia, winner of the Barrow Street Press Poetry Prize; Heathen; Voicing American Poetry: Sound and Performance from the 1920s to the Present; and other books. She has recently published poems in Prairie Schooner and Rattle, and she teaches at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia.