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.
The night is that bitter cold that slices easily through nylon and Polartec, makes child’s play of fleece and denim. The small rooms glow in the dim radiance of propane lights and heaters as the silver is carefully packed away in plastic tool boxes. The pinyon wood is neatly stacked in forty pyres, some little taller than the white children clinging to their parents’ legs, some reaching twenty-five feet, frozen sentinels against the star gorged sky. The fires are slowly lighted from the top, the green wood slowly creeps to flame as its sap drips fire until the pile is consumed. Half frozen we step away from the sudden oven heat. The smoke climbs obliterating the stars as the procession snakes from the small, adobe church, the men at its head firing rifles into the scowling smoke cloud. A sheet is draped over the four poles a chupah over the statue of the Virgin Mother remarried to her people. She weaves through the crowd, gringos, Indians, looking always upward, beyond the smoke the clouds against which it nestles, beyond all, for another faint glimpse of her Son.
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 listen carefully 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 these canyons for another ten thousand moons.
First appeared in Erothanatos, Vol. 3, No. 3, July 2019
The difference between love and lust is as thin as the blade of a fine razor, as broad as the Rio Grande Canyon outside Taos, so how can you tell one from the other? Some will say it is an impossible task others will take the “I know it when I see it” route leading nowhere. There is no easy answer, certainly, but those who have tasted love will tell you the difference is monumental and elemental. I have wanted a woman deeply, cared for her, missed her in her absence but when my love, my lover, is not here I am incomplete, and that is an abyss into which I dread falling.
The mountains rise, bluer blacker than real against a faded sky. The ancestors have fled these hills, no orange eyes stare out of the night, no voices of the trickster take up chorus against the stars.
The man sits, waiting patiently for the wolf to arrive. It has been far too long, this wait, as the Wolf has his lair in the distant mountain, and has little use for the people in the city, in the place where the man sits waiting. The man is sure they met once, although he is now beginning to wonder if it was simply coyote assuming the shape of his lupine imagination. The man cannot or will not say why he wishes to see the Wolf, it is enough for him to have the desire, and he knows that once wolf arrives, he and the Wolf together will sing a piercing song to the moon.
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.
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.