AWAITING

He strains mightily to hear the sound of a wolf. He knows the voice of coyote well, and here they are ever-present. But wolf is a different creature. He knows coyote will try to take the shape and voice of wolf. But an elder such as he can tell the difference. Wolf is his totem, and each day the man knows he grows closer to death. He wants to speak with wolf one last time, out here, among the sage and jackrabbits. He wants to sit with wolf and stare at the thickening moon and leave the wolf his story to impart to another generation.

GONE

The salmon people
don’t live here anymore
you have moved them
up the river, then inland
so they no longer need to wander.

The salmon
do not swim here anymore
you have dammed the rivers
to draw out their power
and penned the mighty fish
where the river first licks the sea.

The eagle doesn’t
fly here anymore
the great pines
that sat for generations
below his aerie are now
cut into neat supports
on which we hang our walls.

Our children
do not run here anymore
they have moved
to the cities, have gone off
to wars for fighting
is the only job
which they are given.

We have no rivers
we have no salmon
we have no sons, save those
who sleep under neat white stones.
We look for the eagle
a mighty spirit
but he, too, has been claimed
by the others
to decorate their buildings.
We have only our spirit
to guide us and we know
that soon you will claim them too
and leave us as you arrived
to repeat the sad story.

CANYON

He stands  on the edge
of the canyon and peers
into the river etched below.
At first you think
he is considering jumping,
but his gaze is too studious,
as if he is waiting
for some particular moment.
You are correct,
he is waiting
for a particular moment
and when it arrives
he shouts at the far
canyon wall, entreating God
and the ghosts
that inhabit the nearby
cliff dwellings.
God answers
in the man’s voice, echoing
his plea, and the ghosts
take up the chorus.
He smiles
and retreats
from the precipice
certain that he,
and all who are holy,
sing in harmony.

COYOTE SONG

Down at the butt end
of the arroyo is a pond,
an aneurysm in the stream
that runs down from the mountains
for better than a month
each spring.
The twisted, gnarled mesquite
cluster around it,
like children gazing at a corpse
in utter fascination
who dare not approach
lest it become real and touch them.
The three scrawny goats
nibble at the mesquite
and stare at themselves
on the surface, occasionally
dragging their tongues
through the water.
Each night as the sun
is swallowed by the earth,
their songs begin
until the gods arise
from the water
and dance
across the parched ground.

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,
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.