FOOTHILLS

The clouds well up
over the foothills
casting a gray pall,
bearing the angry spirits
of the chindi who dance
amid the scrub juniper.
Brother Serra, was this
what you found, wandering
along the coast, tending
the odd sheep, Indian
and whatever else
crossed your path?

The blue bird
hopping across the dried grasses
puffing its grey breastplate and cape
sitting back, its long tail feathers
a perfect counterbalance.
It stares at the oppressing clouds
and senses the impending rain.
The horses wandering the hill
pausing to graze
on the sparse green grasses.
The roan mare
stares at the colt
dashing among the trees
then returns to her meal,
awaiting the onset of evening.

The chindi await
the fall of night
when they are free to roam
and steal other souls.
Was your water rite
more powerful
than the blessing chants?
Did you ward off their evil
and purify the breeze
of the mountains?

First published in Progenitor, Vol. 55, 2020

THE MESA, MIDNIGHT

The coyotes come down from the Sandia Hills onto the mesa.  They are not spirits.  They are not totems.  They are not tricksters.  They are hungry: for a jackrabbit, for a bird, for a small dog wandering too far from a half-lit earthship.  They smell the sage, its faint odor carried on the night breeze.  Taos, its weak glow on the horizon, is a spirit.  It is a chindi to be avoided.  It is the home of the skinwalkers.  Out here walk only fools and shaman.  There is no moon this night.  The coyotes have no need for a moon.  The stars are not mythic creatures cast into the heavens.  They are points of light, collectively painting the black dome.  They bathe the sage and desert earth below in light.  A cry in the distance, a brother has been fed.  Coyote don’t mourn the jackrabbit.  His purpose has been fulfilled.  An elk bellows from across the asphalt ribbon or across the canyon carved by the river.  They know the river as more than a rope of water flowing beneath the bridge, the bridge on which men stand and marvel.  The coyotes have tasted the river. The river is a lifestream.   A jackrabbit cries.  A brother or sister howls.  There is a chorus.  There is silence.  Later, as the sun first appears behind the mountains, the coyotes retreat into the hills.

On this mesa, and in its surrounding hills, are the bones of many jackrabbits and many men.  There are the bones of the coyotes as well, all mingling in the dry, stony soil.