The Little Wolf Girl
Angela Readman

The child worried she was feral sometimes,
the bitch’s daughter heard days yelp and lope off,
wild dogs called to her in sounds she made in her sleep.
Longing scratched the confines of her shame.
She tried to be like other children on the block,
ran with kites that wouldn’t take bites from the sky,
dogs chased her ribbons, she felt their red streams,
hot blood in pursuit of her heart.

The house threw out its shadow when day was done,
dark ground sheets where dogs made beds and lay down.
She watched them chew hours down to their core,
tongues rolled out in red carpet welcome for old bones.
She was afraid of low growls in her throat, brittle films
of bark, mother’s rasp, to strip sleeping trees to their sap.
As any wolf, the girl would give it all up for a ball
and a red collar with her name etched in gold.

Her life depended on lessons from other people’s pets,
to tame the feral, become a girl thrown a bad stick
but still able to fetch back a mouthful of love.
She searched her nature as a dog chases its tail,
a circle of self, to prove it’s all there, then, quick as lick,
learnt to abandon concern to bound towards men and leads.
Dogs found the salt of her, made her see it, taught her
to achieve affection by just a wag of tail, scruffy fans.

She taught dogs to kiss by merely presenting her face,
love rough as stubble, crab grass, scoured by Santa Ana wind.
She rolled in the smell to mask her own, wore acceptance
over hand-me-down clothes precious as a fur coat.
At night she dreamt of rabbits, heard the whimper of minutes
in a mongrels vigil for an owner’s return, greeted by a clout of shoe.
The dog would still be there tomorrow, pulse connected to his tail,
in wait for a master to come home. The girl still had much to learn.

Angela Readman lives in England, where she completed an MA in creative writing. Her work has appeared in Ambit, Staple, Envoi, and The Times, and she won The Biscuit Competition and The ragged Raven Sequence Competition. Her poetry collection, Strip, was published by Salt Publishing.