11-22-2022

Anne Haven McDonnell

TRACKS

Last night’s rain

fills the mud

rim of this

track where

the wolf

with two

crooked toes

crossed

the trail

so close

to where

we spooned

in sleep—

dark tucking in

the edges

of our loose-

limbed dreaming,

bodies curved

and pressed

together

like an ear.

THE OLD DOG

 

We keep him close, leashed.

Each morning, I wipe a dab

of grease in his dry blind eye.

We nuzzle him between us,

worry over tumors and stiff joints.

A metal-pinned hip, mostly deaf,

but his nose keeps growing sharper.

He circles the wolf scat,

raises his head, looks blindly

into the brush off trail.

It’s more than tolerance, learning

to co-exist, the wolf scientist says.

When I let him loose, he limps

ahead, rounds the bend

out of view. What would I give,

I wonder—not this old dog—

my breath caught, tight until

I find him again, sniffing

the edge of trail. On his last hike

to the bluffs, he lay his body down

on a pillow of deep moss. The wolves

sometimes sleep there too.

 

SHADOW INTO WOLF 

 

On the long low-tide of seal spit, I studied just beyond

the horizon

of sight—a dark twist of driftwood, black against the sandy bank

and shag

of cedar. Thought it’s just like my mind

to make

a branch a wolf snout, profile with two ears pricked

towards

our boat where you load waterproof bags and I rest

a flash.

I backed away from the killdeer’s broken wing dance,

gave

her nesting space, found this water-worn cedar log to sit

a spell.

And like a dream swims up to waking, I saw that branch rise and                                           

all at once

become an actual black wolf watching you load our boat.

Thought

it’s just like a wolf to sit beyond the horizon of sight, to shapeshift, to

yank

the mind towards what it fears or yearns for. And just like a wolf to stand up

full

in bodied toothy fact, cut a hole in the forest, all the gathered

shade

and shadow, turn back to trees and leave me

wondering

what I saw and how I might tell it.

-from Breath on a Coal (Middle Creek Publishing, 2022), selected by Fall 2022 Guest Editor, Michael Walsh 

Anne Haven McDonnell lives in Santa Fe, NM, and teaches as an associate professor at the Institute of American Indian Arts. Her work has been published in Orion Magazine, The Georgia Review, The American Journal of Poetry, Nimrod, Terrain.org, and elsewhere. Her work won the fifth annual Terrain.org poetry prize, second place for the 2019 international Gingko Prize for Ecopoetry, and second place for the Narrative Magazine’s Twelfth Annual Poetry Prize. Her chapbook Living with Wolves was published with Split Rock Press. Anne holds an MFA from the University of Alaska, Anchorage, and has been a writer-in-residence at the Andrews Forest Writers’ Residency and the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology.