for the animal shall not be measured by man Henry Beston
In Alaska, searching the wolf by day
and longing by dark for his howl,
I spot a body, gray fur sunk into bone
beside the rails as the train speeds deeper
into Denali, a wilderness where
all things move with the seasons. The pink
of fireweed dies to floating cotton
as August lengthens. Canis lupus —
science named him — will plow snow to tear
the white weasel and hare, nuzzle
young in the camouflage of a den. And over
summer’s green-gold tundra, trail
caribou, mile after tangled mile, plunging
streams that redden and twist with salmon.
This mythic, hunted animal – the Pawnee’s
Spirit Talker, the west’s Lobo — listens
for raven to call from a sky
not yet stolen. When the same sky
streaks with twilight, somewhere
voices rise to it and to each other,
a wild harmony haunting the unknown.
Author’s Comments: “Songlines” evolved from a trip to Alaska and from reading Barry Lopez’s Of Wolves and Men. I will never forget hearing Lopez speak at CPCC a few years ago. I bought his book and it was so heart-breaking that I had to put it down. Then I finished the book on the flight home from Alaska, crying as I read on the plane. Since then, the decimation of the wolf population at the hand of man, both in the Rocky Mountain states and here in our own state of N.C., has led me to write other poems about wolves.
Bio: Diana Pinckney’s work has appeared in Cave Wall, Green Mountains Review, Tar River Poetry, Connotations.com, Cream City Review, RHINO, Main Street Rag, Iodine, The Pedestal Magazine and numerous other journals and anthologies. She has 4 collections of poetry, including Green Daughters. Diana is the winner of The 2010 EKPHRASIS Prize and Atlanta Review’s 2012 International Poetry Prize.
The evocation of wilderness here is extraordinary—generates great longing in this reader and (I suspect) all others.