The Day They Shot a Wolf in the Ghetto and What It Meant

by Quoting The Dean Of Science. "We Are Saddened," He Said, "by The Use Of Violence

I say I saw her end, but I didn’t.
And how she began, nobody knows. In prison

is what the paper pretends: in a pen,
in a lab, with the gate half open,

and the wolf lunging out to get free.
As if that wasn’t just the lead tot heir story

but the start of her life. Which then took off
in a streak of gray across dark green lawns

— its ears pressed flat, its legs going hard–
so the students, walking, their books in their arms

saw something they didn’t understand sprint (fast)
across what they did. Before they could ask

what it meant, she was gone. Like a dream
disappears at the edge of meaning and means

something else on the other side. Except,
of course, she wasn’t a dream. As soon as she leapt

away from the curb,
she became what the drivers swerved

around: the kind of soft mistake that wakes the kids
or ruins the job or the marriage. The drivers did

what they always did: they leaned on their horns and kept
on going. Shaking, now, and wet

with panic, the wolf dove (blind)
into narrow darkness and ran for a long time

from alley to alley.
Parts of the world are like the veins in an arm: hit one deeply

enough, and it’s a disappearance.
The wolf submerged into pure silence,

till she came up, across town, in a garden.
Chlorine pools. Plastic fish. Iron
deer at absurd attention. A landscape chose
to look like nature but safer than that: frozen

solid. Green light slanting through planted trees.
She must have stopped there and sampled the breeze,

maybe licked at the blood between the cracks
in her paws, fooled into thinking she could stop and relax

by blending, like everything else, into richness.
But the paper, later, quoted a witness:

“I thought,” said the woman, “she looked kind of funny.
Panting like that. And without anybody.

So when she didn’t move, I called the cops.”
They spotted her there like you’d spot

an idea in the midst of a conversation.
And after that, came the wail of sirens

streaking across suburban blocks– smearing the sense
and symmetry– till she hit the link fence
by the railroad tracks. Where (foam streaking her back)
she crossed over. The winos, the women at the laundromat,

barely noticed her passing. “Take
one to know one,” they kidded later. Like the mistake

of the rookie cop when he asked
if they’d seen something dark and scared run past,

and everyone pointed in different directions
— towards the sewer, the projects, up into heaven–

till the cop had to drive away. They caught her, finally,
when the neighborhood dogs started whining

at the smell of fear in the air.
The cops simply cut off their sirens and stared,

and the howls of the dogs rose like a map
superimposed on the back

of the city. If the wolf has to be a symbol
of something, then the symbol now trembled
in knee-high grass. A vet in a pure white van pulled over:
in his trunk, a collection of tranquilizers–

on his hands, a pair of surgical gloves–
as if we became what we touched.

“We had her,” the officer said, “in a corner
and were attempting to take her alive, as ordered,

when she charged. And two of my men dispatched her
before she could do any harm. Their reaction,”

he added, “was totally normal.”
The paper, later, came up with a moral

by quoting the Dean of Science.
“We are saddened,” he said, “by the use of violence

and the subsequent loss of learning.”
But that wasn’t learning I saw in the grass, turning

over and over itself till it died.
Her body was carted back to the lab, untied

on a table for the students to study, and then
what was left of the wolf was abandoned.

Which is yet another end to the story.
Except, of course, there was still the body

and the meaning of that depended, again,
on how it looked (all cut into parts) and when

and where it was (on the floor). The way
I see it, in a single movement, they

dropped the wolf down a chute to the basement
where, in a plastic bag, she escaped.

Daniel Wolff is a poet and author of the excellent biography of the great Sam Cooke, You Send Me, as well as the recent collection of Ernest Withers’ photographs The Memphis Blues Again. This poem originally appeared in the Spring 1990 edition of Three Penny Review.

He can be reached at: ziwolff@optonline.net

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
July 29, 2015
Mike Whitney
The Politics of Betrayal: Obama Backstabs Kurds to Appease Turkey
Joshua Frank
The Wheels Fell Off the Bernie Sanders Bandwagon
Conn Hallinan
Ukraine: Close to the Edge
Stephen Lendman
What Happened to Ralkina Jones? Another Jail Cell Death
Rob Wallace
Neoliberal Ebola: the Agroeconomic Origins of the Ebola Outbreak
Dmitry Rodionov
The ‘Ichkerization’ Crime Wave in Ukraine
Joyce Nelson
Scott Walker & Stephen Harper: a New Bromance
Bill Blunden
The Red Herring of Digital Backdoors and Key Escrow Encryption
Thomas Mountain
The Sheepdog Politics of Barack Obama
Farzana Versey
A President and a Yogi: Abdul Kalam’s Symbolism
Norman Pollack
America’s Decline: Internal Structural-Cultural Subversion
Foday Darboe
How Obama Failed Africa
Cesar Chelala
Russia’s Insidious Epidemic
Tom H. Hastings
Defending Democracy
David Macaray
Why Union Contracts are Good for the Country
Virginia Arthur
The High and Dry Sierras
Jon Langford
Mekons Tour Diary, the Season Finale, Mekonception in Redhook
July 28, 2015
Mark Schuller
Humanitarian Occupation of Haiti: 100 Years and Counting
Lawrence Ware
Why the “Black Church” Doesn’t Exist–and Never Has
Peter Makhlouf
Israel and Gaza: the BDS Movement One Year After “Protective Edge”
Carl Finamore
Landlords Behaving Badly: San Francisco Too Valuable for Poor People*
Michael P. Bradley
Educating About Islam: Problems of Selectivity and Imbalance
Binoy Kampmark
Ransacking Malaysia: the Najib Corruption Dossier
Michael Avender - Medea Benjamin
El Salvador’s Draconian Abortion Laws: a Miscarriage of Justice
Jesse Jackson
Sandra Bland’s Only Crime Was Driving While Black
Cesar Chelala
Effect of Greece’s Economic Crisis on Public Health
Mel Gurtov
Netanyahu: An Enemy of Peace
Joseph G. Ramsey
The Limits of Optimism: E.L. Doctorow and the American Left
George Wuerthner
Bark Beetles and Forest Fires: Another Myth Goes Up in Smoke
Paul Craig Roberts - Dave Kranzler
Supply and Demand in the Gold and Silver Futures Markets
Eric Draitser
China’s NGO Law: Countering Western Soft Power and Subversion
Harvey Wasserman
Will Ohio Gov. Kasich’s Anti-Green Resume Kill His Presidential Hopes?
Jon Langford
Mekons Tour Diary, Episode 4, a Bowery Ballroom Blitz
July 27, 2015
Susan Babbitt
Thawing Relations: Cuba’s Deeper (More Challenging) Significance
Howard Lisnoff
Bernie Sanders: Savior or Seducer of the Anti-War Left?
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma’s Profiteers: You Want Us to Pay What for These Meds?
Joshua Sperber
What is a President? The CEO of Capitalism
John Halle
On Berniebots and Hillary Hacks, Dean Screams, Swiftboating and Smears
Stephen Lendman
Cleveland Police Attack Black Activists
Zoe Konstantopoulou
The Politics of Coercion in Greece
Patrick Cockburn
Only Iraq’s Clerics Can Defeat ISIS
Ralph Nader
Sending a ‘Citizens Summons’ to Members of Congress
Clancy Sigal
Scratch That Itch: Hillary and The Donald
Colin Todhunter
Working Class War Fodder
Gareth Porter
Obama’s Version of Iran Nuke Deal: a Second False Narrative