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
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
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.
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.