It seemed a wolf had terrorized the town.
Well, isn’t that what wolves are wont to do?
The people said, “Say, put that wild thing down.”
“Or else, instead, give it a talking to.”

A man named Francis had a special way
of speaking with the creatures of the wood.
He was the Doc Dolittle of his day.
And all in nature knew that he was good.

Approaching near and fearing not its jaw,
he whispered to the wolf without restraint.
On hearing this, the wolf held out a paw
and winked as if to say, “You are a saint.”

The people then befriended it. What’s more
they welcomed man and beast at every door.


Alan Sugar shares his poetry and performance art in Decatur, Georgia where he currently resides. He is also a puppeteer, and he has worked as a special education teacher in the public schools of Atlanta. Currently, Alan works as a writing tutor at Georgia State University Perimeter College, Clarkston Campus. His work has appeared in the Atlanta Review, The Lyric, and The Jewish Literary Journal.

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10 Responses

  1. Sally Cook

    So nice to hear about St. Francis ! I also believe that all animals respond to humans if treated well.Still, I would not live in close quarters with a pit bull, who has random violence built into his nature. Kindness and understanding, yes, but we must remember that the average person is not a saint.

    Much enjoyed your poem.

  2. James A. Tweedie

    Delightful, lighthearted, well-composed and yet faithful to the inherent lesson of the story. As Sally so rightly says, “the average person is not a saint.” But, although it is probably not a good idea to approach wild wolves “without restraint,” this does not mean that we cannot do our best to behave like saints as regards our “man and beast” neighbors!

  3. C.B. Anderson

    A couple of years ago I was bitten (on the hand that fed him) by a cross-bred English bulldog that had recently come to the place where I was house-sitting. Now, I’m no Michael Vick, but I am certainly no St. Francis. Lions do not lie down with the lambs, despite our wishes that it might be so, and Nature always defeats theory. Though I am open to the idea that extraordinary individuals have existed, I want to know whether this is a factual account or a legend. On the poem itself: it was delightful and very well wrought in every respect.

  4. Alan Sugar

    It’s a profoundly comforting story to me. Small actions and healing words. I appreciate these comments!

  5. Mark Stone

    Alan, Hello! I have five comments. First, “It seemed” doesn’t add content to the story. You could use these two syllables to add a description of the wolf, such as: “A nasty wolf had terrorized the town.” Second, I wonder if the quotation marks at the end of the third line and the beginning of the fourth line are necessary, since the two sentences appear to be one quotation from the people. Third, “Or else” and “instead” appear to be redundant. Fourth, “fearing not” is a mildly awkward inversion (IMHO) and “approaching near” is a bit redundant. One could address both concerns by changing the line to something like: “Approaching and not fearing its large jaw,” Fifth, notwithstanding these comments, I agree that the poem is well-constructed and delightful.

    • Alan Sugar

      I’ve considered these thoughts as well. Thank you, most of all, for your advice concerning the quotation marks in the third and fourth lines. I was not sure how to handle the placement of those quotation marks. Of course, I’m glad that you like the poem!

  6. Monty

    This is a very well-written piece, Alan; containing immaculate grammar and the clearest of diction. You’ve certainly got a talent for verse.

    I agree with Mr Stone about L3 and 4: one set of quotation-marks – before ‘say’ and after ‘to’ – would suffice.

    I can also see his point in L4 about ‘or else’ and ‘instead’ being redundant (‘cos of their similarity in meaning); but I’m not sure I can fully agree. At first glance, they DO appear redundant on the page; but when one reads the line out loud, it seems to work. Either way, I personally would’ve just made the line something like: ‘Or else give it a right good talking to’.

    But I have to disagree fully with Mr Stone on his suggestion that the first two words in L1.. ‘It seemed’ don’t “add content” to the story. I believe they do: in the sense that if, in a small town, food suddenly started to go missing: and some chickens were killed . . then even though no inhabitants had yet spotted a wolf with their own eyes, they may be entitled to conclude that “It seems to bear all the hallmarks of a wolf attack” . . . hence, “IT SEEMED to bear all the . . . “.

    I hope, Alan, that any future pieces you submit to SCP contain an equal attempt at ‘humour’ . . . it seems like I don’t see many ‘humorous’ poems these days.

  7. Alan Sugar

    Thanks for your thoughts.

    I also have some problems with the poem.

    I threw in the word “instead” just for the sake of respecting the meter. It feels redundant to me as well.

    So, now I’m thinking of:

    “or else, at least, give it a talking to.”

    Thanks again-

    • Monty

      Yeah, “at least” would also work.
      I find it promising that you’ve admitted to “throwing in” the word ‘instead’ just to maintain the meter. One hopes you can now see that the very act of doing so is a crime. Every word in every poem must be there only because it has an absolute right to be there in the context of the diction; and not for any other reason.

  8. Dianne

    Take the poem for what it is and the message it is conveying. This is a beautiful metphor for understanding.


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