The dream came to him again last night. He could never be certain if it was on the barren high mesa outside Taos or in the endless sands of Morocco. It really didn’t matter, since the action of the dream took place in a restaurant, and its location was ambiance, although he suspected it did have some deeper psychological meaning. In the dream he was grating cheese, when he awoke, nervous. Try though he knew he wouldn’t slip back into sleep until he determined if he was grating Roquefort or Gorgonzola, and he knew the cows would be soon enough calling him to the barn for the morning milking.
Out here, he warned,
you should always be on the lookout
for snakes by day, not that they
will go out of their way to attack you,
but stray into their territory
and the Western Diamondback
will give you a quick lesson in awareness.
They hide among the scrub sage
and in the arroyos, but you still
walk for this kind of beauty
demands your attention regardless.
And at night, he added,
don’t stray too far for the coyotes
wander freely looking for rabbits
and small game, and though you
would be too large a meal,
you’d still be worth a taste.
You are in their home, after all.
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We remember the oddest moments of life,
the tragedies, the occasional comedy,
but mostly the unusual moments that etch themselves
into memory in ways you would not have expected.
Driving along the mostly deserted road,
a moonless night, or nearly so, the Mesa
cold and forbidding, not at all reminiscent of the birth
to be celebrated by the world
the next day, as it had for millennia.
The movie was dark and heavy,
the meal somewhat the same,
dominating the conversation… THUD —
a sudden shift left into the oncoming lane,
no one, thankfully, oncoming, the door caved in,
passengers’ bones checked, none broken, all badly shaken.
In the beam of the flashlight, is an elk, sitting
off the road, still much alive but shaken, and
in the first light of morning, moved further
into the scrub, and by afternoon, off into the foothills.
At night, in these mountains
you see a million stars, but
all you hear is the silence.
It bothers you, this silence
and you strain to hear, what?
There is no one here but you
and your breath is swallowed
by the night sky. Be still
for the wind will rise,
and these mountains
and these trees herd us
into ever smaller spaces
as we have been herded
for generations, we
will gather as we ride
among the peaks and down
into canyons, listen
carefully, for inside
the wind we dance around
your ears, our songs faint.
As the full moon rises
slowly over the mountain
you will look for us
but we cannot be seen.
You will hear our song
dancing across this mesa,
one voice to another.
You will imagine us
coyote, you will feel a chill
along your spine
and we will fall silent.
The stars will smile
for they know our stories
but to you we are
simply, the songs of coyotes.
Listen to our voices
we will tell you of the land
of the grasses once here
where our herds grazed,
now gone to endless sage.
As we lick at your face
taste the tears
which have watered
this now arid soil.
Look at the flowers
pushing out of the sand
and rock, see our faces
in the stones about your feet.
You may return to your homes
and pull your comforters
around your chins, hiding
from the night’s chill,
but we shall remain
among these peaks, in
for another ten thousand moons.
First appeared in Erothanatos, Vol. 3, No. 3, July 2019
He clearly remembers standing on the edge
peering down into the almost bottomless canyon,
listening to the narrow river slide across the rocks
thrown down by its walls over millennia.
He was a visitor here, knew he would stay
only briefly, then leave, his spirit hiding
among the rocks in the nearby mountains,
staring down on the mesa for eternity.
He remembers listening for coyote, begging
the wily one to tell him the tales of its ancestors
with whom he will soon share this canyon.
All he hears is the wail of the jackrabbit,
coyote’s message in a foreign voice,
as night engulfs the mesa and he
stares up at the galaxies and stars
which barely notice the small orb
hanging in the distant sky.
one thousand fingers
gently fold one thousand cranes
our tears are countless.
red sandstone plateaus
coyote stalks through scrub pine
chindi howl assent
in the Norway Spruce
pine cones threaten to descend.
Squirrels sit waiting.
His brother said that if you left
the windows open at night, the ghosts
would come in and might steal your soul.
He didn’t care, he wanted to hear
the song the stars sang every night,
to see them come down and move
in pairs across the mesa, for stars,
he knew turned orange when they
left their celestial perch, and would
certainly keep the ghosts away,
for ghosts were like rabbits and hid
when the stars came near, and
once in a while, if a ghost moved
too slowly he would hear its cry
as it was captured by a star.
And, he was certain, ghosts
preferred doors, and they kept theirs
tightly locked, for you never knew
what you’d find out on the mesa.
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.