We had seen wolves before, and more often
heard a pack hunting, but this wolf

was alone at the end of a grave winter,
fur matted in poor tufts, as it cringed

across the packed snow of the path up ahead,
looked at us over a shoulder, and faded

into the trees. Sick or hurt,
starving, but still with muscle like coiled cable

beneath its loose fell, still with teeth,
still better at living in the cold than we are,

it passed silently, broad paws on top of the snow,
and I saw what was in that glance back—

a gauging of the odds. Our voices
stopped, and by instinct we drew closer together.

We were two, but if either of us
had been one, the wolf might have turned

to that solitary flesh, driven brave by famine.

James Owens’s most recent book is Mortalia (FutureCycle Press, 2015). His poems and translations appear widely in literary journals, including recent publications in Adirondack Review, The American Journal of Poetry, The Honest Ulsterman, and Southword. He earned an MFA at the University of Alabama and lives in a small town in northern Ontario.