Coyotes

crossing the street alongside five coyotes

a pack or middling clan

of half dog devils

chests bony

a chorus of panting

knowing open mouth smiles

cheap blankets of fur

and black spotted lips

hunched canine shoulders

swaying gypsy hips

they smell like wet desert

of both the hunt and the huddle

of frozen winter bushes

and howling monsoon summers

of our encroachment

and their struggle

as development snares

new square acres as its own

Now cat alley and dog street

will be coyote clan home

So I demurely defer

and let this nobility pass

but just one pilgrim

catches me in their glance

and across that midnight

black asphalt expanse

he speaks in laughing mute

tongue wagging silent salute

“Move mortal,

We beggar princes are on the move.”

I wrote this poem intially sometime in about 2003 or 2004. I was living with a friend on the outskirts of Phoenix, where the shore of the desert is crashed upon by the rising tide of condos and suburbia. At night, rattlesnakes and javelena and coyotes would invade the neighborhood. Walking back from some misdemeanor or another, I encounter a pack of coyotes in the neighborhood.

This poem sat in its primeviel form in a notebook from that time and wasn’t unearthed until about 2011 when I started read it at several open mics and events. I publish it here for the first time for two reasons- one, so that it has a permanent form somewhere. Two, because my handwriting from the time is so atrocious that the poem has changed frequently. This is the version I like the most.