The hawks have been circling
more frequently of late,
but in the early autumn laziness
of merely riding the breezes
that seem to pick up in the mornings,
before the midday sun bids them
be calm so it can make its transit.
By afternoon, they tend to roost
high up in the giant pines, peering
down as the flow of people flows
along the paths seeking to grasp
the fading warmth and last blooms
for a few moments longer, and
as evening approaches the hawks
take flight again, knowing the moon
can move the tides, but is powerless
to change the winds which blow
when and where their sky mother chooses.
I sit outside, on the mesa
having watched the mauve, fuchsia
and coral sky finally concede to night.
The two orange orbs sit
twenty yards away, staring back
and in this moment coyote and I
have known each other for moments,
and for generations, and we are content.
Coyote tells me he was once
an elder living in the old adobe
buildings, how he was a shaman,
still is, with his magic, and I
tell him of how I walked for years
in the desert, food appearing
from heaven, of how I crossed the sea
and some thought it parted for me.
Coyote and I are both old
and we know we each have stories
that no one would believe, and
so we are left to believe each other
and tell our stories to the sky gods.
Far out on the mesa
the wind sings an alluring song
to the melody of the wooden flute.
You can sit among the sage,
and like the orange orbed coyote
around you, stare up at the moon
and look for the spirits
of the ancient ones that lived
in these mountains, the tricksters
who come out when the sun
is carried off for its rest,
and fancydance up and down
the parched arroyos until
they take the moon and depart
before dawn, promising a return.
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.