‘The Last Wolf’ by Mary TallMountain – treasure I found along the way.

I love it when an author I’m reading seeds their story with references to other writers who I haven’t read. I always seek them out as if was following a treasure map found in a secret drawer of a long unopened desk.

Today, I was reading ‘Hollow Beasts’ by Alisa Lynn Valdés and settling happily into the first book of a new series about Jodi Luna, a rookie New Mexico Game Warden who used to be a poetry professor, when she asked a character who she’s just met and who has declared his love for the written word, what his favourite poet is. He picks Mary TallMountain and says his favourite piece of hers is ‘The Last Wolf’ which he describes, rather succinctly, as ‘Helluva poem’.

I don’t know what happens next yet because I left New Mexico to go find Mary TallMountain and read ‘The Last Wolf’.

It is indeed a helluva poem.

‘The Last Wolf’ by Mary TallMountain

The last wolf hurried toward me
through the ruined city
and I heard his baying echoes
down the steep smashed warrens
of Montgomery Street and past
the few ruby-crowned highrises
left standing
their lighted elevators useless

Passing the flicking red and green
of traffic signals
baying his way eastward
in the mystery of his wild loping gait
closer the sounds in the deadly night
through clutter and rubble of quiet blocks
I heard his voice ascending the hill
and at last his low whine as he came
floor by empty floor to the room
where I sat in my narrow bed looking west, waiting
I heard him snuffle at the door
and I watched

He trotted across the floor
he laid his long gray muzzle
on the spare white spread
and his eyes burned yellow
his small dotted eyebrows quivered

Yes, I said.
I know what they have done.

I loved this as soon as I read it. I don’t know what it means yet but its power calls to me, like a song that captures my imagination before I take in the lyrics.

I love the image of the last wolf in what seems to be post-apocalyptic San Francisco, hurrying through the destruction towards the woman waiting for him.

What does it mean? I don’t know yet. It will be fun working that out and seeing how that changes for me over time.

I do know that I found a new poet and a helluva poem and I wanted to share them both.

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