After all the wolves on the island were killed by cyanide, traps, and bullets, decades later, wolves from the mainland swam for miles to repopulate the island.
By dream, by twitch, by lope, by gazing from the shore, by howls that gather, by circle and whine, by hint, rumor and surge, by yearn, nip, and bark, by stretch, itch, and shake, by splash, dunk, and swim by starlight, by bull kelp and driftwood, by calm and gelatinous sea, by stink of whale, by salt of far, by winter fur, by paws as paddles, by chuff and nostril huff, by steam of breath above the sea, by belly of salmon, by hunger for deer, by memory in blood, by roam for love, by milk and teat, by marrow and fat, by muscle, skull and golden eyes, by magnetic pull, by currents and tides, by miles, by sinking cold, with no one watching by sea by sea by sea.
There is the silence of an August afternoon, the lake gun-bright
and still. The silence of the oysterman’s laundry: white socks, a blue shirt strung across two fence posts. Empty oyster shells piled on the beach.
There is the silence of a trap, metal teeth sprung and bit,
the silence after the rifle has fired, its black eye pointed at the ground.
There is the silence draining from the wolf’s eyes, the blood bubbling from the hole like a spring.
Between the farmer’s house and the flute player’s house a wolf pisses along the property line.
There is the silence of a fawn, whole and wet and speckled as a fish, slicking the moss with afterbirth.
The brittle silence of the road sign, Wolf Creek, pointing to a creek with no wolves.
The yawning silence of snow covering the beach without tracks.
After the bounties, the insects trained the silence, clicking their laws, the forest thinking, trying to remember its name.
How to Sit with a Wolf
If you are peeling chestnuts on the rocks above Frank’s beach. If the basket in your lap balances the day’s grey light, corrals the sky between polished stone.
If days of rain and more rain have pushed newts to their slow, blood-chilled crawl on the road. If yesterday you carried each one across in its open-toed freeze, orange belly above your open palm.
If the sea gentles here between islands, your fingers work back bits of leathery skin, the nuts fuzzed and naked in a blue bowl.
If you keep your eyes down— the song you sing in your off-key quiver, the words lift and drop and lift
until the young wolf you caught sleeping on sand takes you in and takes you for this place you are trying to belong to—
The Lost Girl
This is what happened: Kaya wandered down beach, past the nettle patch, past the old fish trap, halfway down to oyster spit. At five-years old, she wobbled in her wander. While her family was unloading their boat, she kept wandering. Low tide, wet sand, beneath her feet, clams sealed their lips and dove deeper. Beneath her feet, purple sand dollars brushed the shallow currents with their spines. Above her head, eagles perched on hemlock tops. She must have gotten tired. She may have sung to herself as she walked. She may have sung to the crabs that scuttled from her fingers. She was not afraid. She must have looked for a dry soft place to lie down. Between two cedar trees on a bank above the beach. Sleeping there when her mother found her. A big dog came to sit with me, she later would say. The wolf’s back haunches touched the girl’s elbow where she lay sleeping. Just watching over her, her mother said. That’s how they found her. This is what happened.
Anne Haven McDonnell lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where she teaches English and creative writing at the Institute of American Indian Arts. In summers, she migrates to the waters and trees of the Northwest, and to an island in British Columbia where she conducted research and interviews that inspired these poems. Her poems won the fifth annual Terrain.org Poetry Prize and second place for the international Gingko Prize for Ecopoetry. These poems are from her chapbook, Living With Wolves, published by Split Rock Press in October 2020.