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.
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.
in cold moonlight
earth rises up
clouds float down
ghosts walk the margin.
Old ones sing
now shall be then
older ones still sing
then shall be once
to wolf and coyote.
This season of north winds
suns heat barren
spirits rise up
man lies interspersed.
we are bearers
we are sowers.
I came down out of these mountains
once, emerged from clouds that built,
blackened the sky, bleached
and were gone, I slid on snow pack,
I came down into the sage and piñon,
lit my fires and purified myself.
I ran with jackrabbits, imagined
bears were coyote, coyotes cats
that might curl in sleep
around my feet. I dug
for water, turned parched ground
to straw with prayer and dream,
baled my dreams and straw
and stacked them neatly,
plastered them over and huddled
within, I ran wires to the mountain gods
and drew their power, I stole the light
of a thousand stars, darkened the moon
and now I am chindi, rejected by
my spirit kin, left to wander the mesa.
They come down from the hills
long after the sun
retreats beyond Tres Piedras.
In the moonless sky
they creep around the pinyon,
nestle the sage that
blankets the mesa, stare
at the scattered homes
that dot the half-frozen soil.
They are orange flames
compressed inside orbs
paired, they approach
here one set, there another.
The wind whistles through
the Rio Grande Gorge
here a mere whisper.
The wild rabbits perk,
fly through the sage
in lupine terror.
One brays to the stars
and inside the house
the fur on the cat’s back
bristles. It’s just a coyote,
he says, nothing
to be afraid of here.
At night, they say,
this land is once again
ours, and we hold
the key to the human prison.
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,
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 we crossed the sea
and some thought it parted for us.
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.