The Howwolf

Catherine Pierce

It sleeps next to you, rises

when you rise. Presses close

in the kitchen, the cemetery,

the subway. It matches

its gait perfectly to your own.

In its soft mouth it carries

whatever you need. Open your hand

and it’s yours: how to remember

that everything ends while still practicing times tables

and keeping the baseboards dust-free.

How to bathe a dog.

A baby.

A rigid-with-rage toddler.

How to say child, we’ve done it, we’ve wrecked the earth

already, before you even arrived, and

how to say look at that heron, look, there he goes,

you can hear his wings, how amazing is that!

Open your hand and it’s yours:

how to remove a splinter.

A tick.

A stray hair.

How to apply winged eyeliner.

How to select a ripe cantaloupe.

How to teach your mind every afternoon

when you hear screams from the school behind your house

to think playground, tag.

How to sharpen a pencil evenly.

Fold a t-shirt.

Press a four-leaf clover.

How to sit at night on a child’s bedroom floor on request,

flickering with how everything ends.

How not to let the dark room be lit by your flickering.

How to wait, and wait, and then, when the child is asleep,

how to slip out quietly, the beast beside you, into

the living room that blazes with everything,

absolutely everything you’ve ever learned.

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