The man liked to cry out into the night,
asking questions for which he knew
there could be no answers, or if
there were, they would be things
he would never wish to hear.
The coyotes in the hills would listen
to his pleas, his entreaties, his
moaning, and they would remember
the spirits of the old ones gone,
and yet back in their now-animal forms.
One night a trickster sat on the mesa,
and when the man began his questions,
the trickster, orange eyes aflame
spoke clearly, loudly, telling the man
that the answer to each of his questions
lay within himself, and he need only
look there, if he had the courage,
which the coyote knew, he lacked.
He imagines what it might be like
to come down out of the foothills
and roam the mesa, unseen unless
he wishes, a complete freedom.
And even if he chooses to be seen, he
can take whatever shape he wishes,
and they would see him only as he
chose, for only as long as he chose.
Even now, he knows, they see him
as they wish, see what they take
to be him, but which is an illusion,
for even the mirror presents
only illusions — you cannot see
others, cannot see your self,
can only grasp the illusory world
and imagine it finite and tangible.
The coyote knows better, and that
knowledge makes him a shapeshifter
with which man could
only marvel and fear.
It is his hands you notice first –
dark fingers bent and gnarled,
several banded in silver,
knuckles scratched by the cat
curled at his feet, the tip
of his index finger sacrificed
to a distraction and the saw,
untrimmed nails, rough, ragged
a torn cuticle, liver spot rubbed raw.
The fingers curl gently around the worn
maple handle of the knife,
which flicks away shards of wood.
He leans into each down stroke
pulling gently back, the other hand
wrapped tightly around
the debarked Koa wood.
Over his shoulder, Mauna Loa
rises, a peacock feathered rainbow
from the lava shore, and still
he flicks the knife across the wood
rocking gently in the old bentwood
chair, its caning torn, split.
I ask him quietly, “Do the shavings
that leave your knife know why
they have been sacrificed?”
He stares at the wood, at the pile
of shavings around his feet.
He looks up slowly his bronzed skin
burnished in sweat, glowing
in the Kona sun, “Bruddah, da whale
sings the whole ocean in a single song.”
Sirius, you arise each evening. Your braying
washes the night sky, as though to daunt us.
There was a time we stood in simple awe
having no idea how far away you skulked
or of your immenseness, a cold dark point
that could barely illumine our occasional thought.
Hawking sits pressed into his chair
held in a gravity with a force of a thousand
suns, all pulling toward a singular focus
and witnesses your slow death
collapsing inward, downward into
your seat on the heavenly chariot
until the moment when nothing
can escape. Hubble knew you all
too well, chasing you across the sky
as you dodged flitting just out of grasp.
You are the coyote, hiding by day
to avoid the hunter, knowing his steps
across the mesa, hearing his footfall
reverberating through the void.
Einstein knew you all too well,
although he rarely glanced upward
preferring to stare through his mind’s
eye, dissecting you, cutting you
into neat slices then reassembling
you and placing you back on the mantle
of his limitless imagination. We no longer
fear you, or for that matter, much care
your color fades into whiteness
and you are lost like another grain
of sand on the beach of time.
The wind takes up voice
as it caresses these mountains,
it’s song a lullaby to the coyotes
staring at the waning moon.
When night grows darkest, they
join in the song, a spirit kirtan
they have practiced for centuries.
Men stare nervously on the mesa
at the stars providing faint light,
the moon wrapping herself
in her cumulus shroud, and
the twinned orange orbs
that peer out from the sage.
They see only fear of coyote,
imagine the trickster
seeking to perpetrate evil
not the Kachina out in the night
to oversee and protect the land
that is rightfully theirs.
He stands on the edge
of the canyon and peers
into the river etched below.
At first you think
he is considering jumping,
but his gaze is too studious,
as if he is waiting
for some particular moment.
You are correct,
he is waiting
for a particular moment
and when it arrives
he shouts at the far
canyon wall, entreating God
and the ghosts
that inhabit the nearby
in the man’s voice, echoing
his plea, and the ghosts
take up the chorus.
from the precipice
certain that he,
and all who are holy,
sing in harmony.
Look to the East
stare at the sky
and feel the winds
carry away the snow
which paints our lands
and shrouds our ancestors
in a mantle of white.
Look to the South
see the waters of the river
flowing gently to the horizon
bringer of the fish spirits,
its azure waters
washing away to merge
into a crystal blue sky.
Look to the West
where the great spirit
slowly rises, chasing away
the chill of night
that cuts into our bones –
watch him slowly rise
the great yellow disk.
Look to the North
where the spirits of the dead
dance among the mesas
and creep into our dreams
stealing our life force
then slip away
into the blackness of night.