Coyote of the Birds

(I like that title. Reminds me of “Harold of the Rocks.”)

Anyway …

Something I didn’t notice until after the publication of The Moon Cracks Open: A Field Guide to the Birds is the prevalence of Coyote dancing through those pages. I think, somehow, he and Crow are the two main characters of this story. I was already aware of Crow’s stature in my writing (he will show up in poems about anything — always an unannounced yet welcome guest). But Coyote is different.

At first, only his voice appears. He himself remains hidden. He’s heard first in “Federico Garcia Lorca Reminds me of Robert Frost,” a poem that seems to speak to the frailty of a life lived isolated from nature:

” … When a coyote knifes the darkness
you think of sirens …”

And then, nearly a dozen pages later, in “Southeast of Red Shirt”:

“… Coyote’s song rings in my ear
like the afterglow
of a lightning flash …”

In both poems, his voice comes at night, as a knife and as lightning. Both cutting the fabric of the darkened sky. But when we finally see him in the flesh, it is in the light of day:

“… They trick the sun as
Coyote tries to
but always gets distracted
by his own dancing shadow
(These being shadow, have none) …”

Here is being compared to his counterpart, his opposite, his double: the Crow. They spin around each other like the Yin and Yang elements of the Taoist symbol. Coyote is of the night, but brings day with his lightning flash. Crow is of the day, but made of night. Together they turn the wheel of the sky around the world.

The final time we see Coyote, he is bringing day back into night; continuing the endless cycle of birth/death/birth. In “The Illness of Windows,” a northern junco has died by flying into the window near our feeders at Green Point Nature Center. The idea is that it is our human weakness that necessitates buildings, and therefore windows; and if it weren’t for this weakness, this illness, the bird would still be alive. But coyote enters at the very end of the poem to remind me that forms change, but Essence is eternal:

“… I place the stiffening body on the grass,
deciding against burial:
the coyotes, at least, have a love of glass.”

About marcbeaudin

Poems, plays, books, roads, trails.
This entry was posted in poetry, Writing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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