The Last Wolves

Every district has its last wolf.’
Lays of the Deer Forest

I watch across the troubled waters
of the Bay whilst you gather up
the Last Wolf of Lancashire
from Humphrey Head.

Some say he was driven
over Kirkhead and Holker
and plunged across the Leven,
sheltered on Coniston Old Man,
swam Windermere to Gummershaw,
Witherslack, Eggerslack, Grange,
met his end in Sir Edgar’s cave
by John Harrington’s lance,

others he fled the Bowland forest
where your ghost-wolves still howl
and was stuck by a thousand pikes
where tides meet the headland.

With thumb and forefinger
you squeeze his wounds closed,
pass your hand across glazed eyes
like the shadow of a lantern.

You shake out his pelt. His soul slips free
to join the wolf-dance in your death-light:

the dance of all the Last Wolves you gathered up…

From Gleann Chon-fhiadh, the Wolves’ Glen,
you gathered up the Last Wolf of Chisolm:
pulled the dirk from her breast, the spear
from her flank, the steel gauntlet,
lamhainn chruaidh from
the trap of her jaws,
laid her amongst
her slaughtered cubs
and sang out their yelping souls.

From between Fi-Giuthas and Pall-a-chrocain,
pinewood known for deer and township in the crooked river,
you gathered up the Last Wolf of Chisolm:
carried back his heavy black head
severed for fear he’d live again,
sewed up his severed throat,
wounds where he’d been
buckled and dirkit,
sang his black shape hurtling back
through pines, upriver, startling deer.

From a cave of bones in Helmsdale
you gathered up the Last Wolf of Sutherland:
closed her stab-wounds,
straightened out her tail from when she was suspended
by a God-like hand, wolf-shadow snapping
ineffectually over her dead cubs,
their ruddy-armed killer.
Her tail straight,
you sang her family whole into the Otherworld.

You gathered up the Last Wolf
of Inverness: pieced together his skull
shattered by an old woman’s frying pan,
sang him back to where he will no longer
prowl into houses or lick
a human hand.

You gathered up all the Last Wolves from
the Wolf’s Rivers, Burns, Crags, Glens, Dens,
Hills, even from Wormhills. You gathered
up the Last Wolf of the Weald

as you gathered up the Last Elk, Aurochs, Bear, Lynx, Boar…

I watch the Last Wolves join your wolf-dance.
White wolves, grey wolves, black wolves,
she-wolves and cubs vivid as stars
whilst bioluminescent fishes
leap across the Bay.

Humphrey Head III

6 thoughts on “The Last Wolves

  1. gaeilgesaghleann says:

    While it grieves me to consider the extirpated species of any area, it helps me grieve to read such a splendid elogy to their end. As a contemplate the news of the arrival of a new and potentially deadly insect in my area which may kill the hemlock trees, I am mentally writing their elogy. Some change we can prevent, especially when it is human caused behaviours, but others, we must learn to accept and grieve.

  2. Greg says:

    Though they are gone from the land they are “gathered up “ and have the voice you have been inspired to give them.

    Long may they be heard and their spirits haunt the land that has lost them.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.