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Coyote Song

White men call me
Canis latrans---
the Brush Wolf---
and think that tells my story


Little do they know how I sprang
fully formed from the Fires
of Creation and how I stand
sentinel on the battlelines
between light and dark

Were it not for my keen eyes
and ears those two old foes
would have devoured each other
long ago

See, now, the proof
of my words
as the inferno sun sinks low!

Though the day be
not yet done,
they’re out there---crouching
behind each cactus
each yucca plant
each creosote bush
each boulder still blistering hot
from the noonrake
of the loping desert sun

They’re out there
like Joaquin Murrieta’s men---
playing cards
drinking tequila
and biding their time
until the huge bloodshot eye blinks red above the Western horizon

They’re out there---
growing bolder
folds of purple poised to move
higher at the whisper of the rising
evening wind---

and eager
to steal away the mountain

Of them,
to them,
I sing---the shadows clinging
to my fractured granite perch
still bathed in a final gasp
of golden light

Six thousand feet below
Mt. San Jacinto the street lights
wink up from the dusty
desert floor

The darkness is gobbling
whole towns----
Palm Springs
Rancho Mirage
Indian Wells---
gone one after another!---
Highway 111's
burst asphalt blister bubbles
strung outward from the Salton Sea

But wait---!
Here for the moment, the wind
chimes a river through
the long needles of Jeffrey pines

To the alpine slopes
comes the music unheard---
balm to the lashes
of cat-of-nine-tales metropolis

Here, in the high twilight
comes a zinging Rufous hummingbird
hopscotching the desert’s
island mountain peaks
on his way to Mexico

Hovering near a crevice
he stops to visit
the nectar vases
of a scarlet Penstemon bush

“Hey, little Torpedo Master
flashing red and green---
you fly so fast---so far---
can you outrace the shadows?”

In a whir he departs
for a different mountain
and I’m left alone---talking
to boulders, the frozen river
jumping down the steep
slopes below

“You, friends----
how radiance lingers in the matrix
of your granite crystals!

“Could you teach Brother Trickster
that trick as well---to capture
the last explosion of light?”

“Hiya!” they shout,
in a surprising rumble, that tweaks
the moist outcrop of my nose

“Our secret is
that we’re not wedded
to our blaze of glory---if you
would ponder---then
ponder only that!”

From on high I muse

From on high I muddle noticing
that each surging boulder
shelters a dark bandito
in hiding

See below---the huge dark
pool swelling
filling in with shadows

Now they even nibble my paws

“Ey, long-legged Furry One,”
chides a dark shape at last,
“You know where we can find
ze Canteena?”

Boys, amigos, come on then!---
I do not skulk from you,
I do not run away

I can make a meal for you

Grab my tail and hear
my howl, low and rising,
awakening Mr. Night Light
and flaming up the torches
of the stars

(c) Peter Hensel, 2009