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 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.
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.
The coyote no longer inhabits the hill south of our city. Yet we know he is there, staring down at the lake, watching the grape clusters fatten on the vines. We cannot see the orange-red orbs of his eyes on a still winter night. We know he sees us. Coyote cannot be found, no carcasses attest to his presence. Coyote is everywhere, walking among us, living in parks, living in plain sight, knowing he is invisible. We see his tricks, know we were once again outsmarted, know we can outsmart him. Coyote no longer inhabits the hills here, for he has morphed, and we are coyote.