THE PUPPET OF THE WOLF

By Margaret Atwood

i

The puppet of the wolf
I have not made yet
encloses my right hand:
fur stubbles my wrists,
a tongue, avid, carnivorous,
licks between thumb and finger;
my knuckles bunch into eyes,
eyes of opaque flesh,
cunning but sightless.

The wolf is transparent, but visible:
my daughter sees it,
my right hand is the wolf.
She laughs at its comic
dance, at its roars
and piglet murders:
the bones of my left hand
squeak and crack in its grip,
in its gray teeth
its lack of mercy.

The last house crashes down:
the wolf is on fire,
my right hand is on fire,
the wolf is gone.


ii

Where has the wolf gone?
He disappeared
under the skin of my fingers,
my scalded werewolf hand,
which now, restored to normal,
slides like an ordinary
hand past the seahorse
and orange boat of the bath.

This is a miracle, there is never
any death:
the wolf comes back whenever
he is called,
unwounded and intact;
piglets jump from my thumbs.

My dying right
hand, which knots and shrinks
drier and more cynical
each year, is immortal,
briefly, and innocent.

Together with my left hand, its
enemy and prey, it chases
my daughter through the warm air,
and muted with soapsuds, lifts her
into the water.

1978


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