Travels

Betty Adcock

BPR 47 | 2020

                    —In 1980, the American red wolf was declared
extinct in East Texas and Louisiana, the last natural
habitat for the species that had once covered the entire
Southeast

A rust-colored dirt road led farther
into woods than I was used to, taller trees
darker with time. It was late summer, 1969.
My father drove in his usual way, the truck’s
air conditioner on high, all windows open.

August was merciless but he wanted the thick
forest scent, the hunter’s habitat.
He was taking me to see the rare red wolf
a Cajun woman had trapped.

The abrupt backyard of a leaning house
held a raw wood cage too small for the creature
pacing, pacing its tight boundary.
Chunks of bloody beef lay in a corner, and a fly-blown
muskrat like an afterthought.

The wolf didn’t snarl or even look at us.
Canis rufus, a small, long-legged species—
even then I knew they had almost vanished,
a fact my father would not accept.

Aw, he’d say, they just moved, maybe over to Arkansas.
This one was running out of time,
so thin it might have been a shadow.
The eyes were lightless, flat.
I knew he would never touch the easy meat.

This half-grown animal had his own journey,
his unbreakable pace going far past the rough cage,
the never-painted, thunder-colored cabin,
the Cajun woman and her offerings.

(I had expected what? a comfortable zoo-bred thing?
embodied wilderness frantic and inconsolable?)

Here was something other, near to the possessed
vision of a saint, that fierce a fidelity,
that distancing chosen and terrible.