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.
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.
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.
On the mesa
between El Prado
and Tres Piedras
after the sun
has been swallowed
by the mountains,
to the east a fire burns.
on the shivering sage.
The scorpion lunges
for the distant hill.
The fire grows
behind the mountain,
the orange disk
The smallest stars
flee Luna’s furious light.
in the road
until her baleful eyes
fall on him,
and he dives
into the sage.
In the dead hours,
once she has
sought her refuge,
the clouds are
no longer shrouds.
in the canyons.