Coyote Song

by Marsha De La O

Marsha De La O

Inside the night, this hospital, asylum,
this party for those undone by desire, forever
unslaked, inside a house inside the night,
I'm inside

this house with eight beams and moonlight
pulling on the past through skylights, this house
of white noise, wind and dry heat, lonely
house on a ridge line, house of ordinary

my sister's house with corrals and outbuildings
around it, and beyond that, the dog
patrolling, and beyond that, skirts and folds
of the mountain rising in rumpled geologic
scrolls into the range.

At the center
beneath the moon's silence that nothing
ever changes, muffled in blankets with fear
beside me on my little bench of sleep,
I can hear their voices,

could be three or twenty-three,
unhinged saints gabbling to their shadows,
or panty-sniffers, drug-trippers in all flavors
past vanilla, could be Birnam wood
on the move, the shriek of its roots thirsty
and air-brushed, or a pack of lunatics
crooning norteño songs.

What is certain is advent.
They're coming down,
coming towards
the heart beneath the feathers,
coming for
what can't be protected,
on a beam of dread,
riding that ray.

I'm listening, my eyes snapped-open
inside darkness, other people in other rooms
who know how to sleep through a night
like this night, thrown against the roundness
of the world which is desire.

The old bitch guards this night on the ranch,
half shepherd, half other, this is her watch,
she gallops the perimeter, anxious to sound like
more than one dog, though she's going arthritic
and her paws strike the hard ground.

Now they quiet, penitents, lunatics,
marauders and ragpickers, quiet.
Only one left behind and the moon
is his hieroglyph,
one creature padding
down the mountain,
coming closer.

Coyote knows a good joke,
he only wants to let her in on it.
He can't stop laughing, can't stop
crying, can't stop licking the crevices
clean, licking safety and duty
until they're empty.

I hear the dog listening, ears lifted.
Coyote's tongue slides into night
air, pressing narcotic vowels through
wonder, through longing
and longing and wonder awaken. She's close
to that edge, that border in the night
where one thing becomes another and even
an old dog who's worked a ranch eleven years
feels the urge to let loose, blow this little
settlement, go wild.

Clouds loose and blue in the arms
of the moon, slant light on this mountain raking
us, the dog and I, we feel the pull. Imagine
a woman trying to come between
coyote and the female he's after
when she knows

what is dark and offers itself and vanishes
has come for her at last? The body wants
what it can't have, to follow the path
of thirst through the rent in the wire
beyond the corral.

The dog doesn't move, but who knows
better than she the small outpost
death has set up in her, maybe she's all
desire now to slip under the moon
and chase down that lure.

Coyote wheedles and croons another minute
or two, then lopes off, calling over his shoulder
in a language even I can understand,
the right names for things
not kept in heaven.

Antidote For Night

Last updated November 25, 2022