Upon Rereading Island of the Blue Dolphins

by Michelle Peñaloza

I remember the ache—
to hunt for devilfish
and live among the sea elephants;
to gather abalone
and sharpen my arrows and hooks
by the light of tiny, slow-burning silver fish;
to weave yucca and tend to my own home
of kelp and whale bones.
I wanted my own wilderness,
a blanket to wrap around myself.
The relief of solitude,
the salve of animals as my only company.
I learned an otter would not withhold its affection,
would only offer its belly
to your offers of fish.
I wanted to be the last of my people,
a girl without
mother, father, sister, brother—
a girl belonging to no one,
my only belongings a cormorant skirt
and a cage of tiny birds.
My only family the wild dog
that killed my brother—
the wild dog I could not kill
and so fed and tamed and named.

Last updated December 17, 2022