Finalist : Terrain.org 7th Annual Contest in Poetry
If You Were to Build a Coyote
If you were to build a coyote with your child, you might begin with a leaf pile as big around as your child’s arms. You might place the leaves into a trash bag. You might cut out triangles from brown paper grocery bags using the blunt-tipped scissors with purple handles that your child can use to cut by herself. You might guide her hands. Two triangles for ears, one upside-down triangle for a face. A piece of brown twine you found in the garden for a tail. If you don’t make legs for your coyote, she can’t run away from you, you might tell your child, who solemnly nods and hugs the crackling animal she’s made. The coyote, you might tell your child, figures greatly in American Indian mythology as a trickster. The trick is that the coyote hunts the rats and the pomegranates rotting in the grass or pushes her black nose through the soft shit-steaming diapers, coffee grounds, and avocado peels we put outside our house. The trick is that the coyote has learned to live with ryegrass and trash cans, mountain laurel and the moist low places in the garden. You might tell your child that at night the coyote drinks the rainwater pooled in the smooth white stones outside her bedroom window. With a rough warm tongue. If you wake up in the night, you might hear her lapping, and it sounds like water dripping in the sink. If you step out of your bed and go to the window, the coyote will turn to you with hazel eyes, regard you coolly until she sees that it’s you, the one who made her, and then she might tell you about her night, and yours
If time were wind that blew through me I would feel it like that: frothing my whitening crown, bending my limbs, casting my flowers into the rain-slick street. If time were a jay that flew through me, I would wear as ornament the blue veins it drew. If I were to plant my face in the lowest branch’s lowest cluster of blooms, I would smell the fence next to the tree, the street on the other side of the fence, and honey in a tablespoon. If the crinkled flowers’ semi- transparent suggestions were to keep falling in such abundance, petaling my face and hair and shoulders and neck, I would not be blamed for thinking they suggested sadness, despite the unfathomable fabrication of next spring’s leaves and white flowers deep in the bark and secreted roots. If I were to venture farther under its canopy, I would be too old to stand in the shade and not discern it as the shade beauty casts on the no longer beautiful. If, softly roaring on the other side of the fence, cars were to speed downtown as if to undo time with crepe myrtle petals dotting their tires (while the tree nods or bows with a fullness like grace), the memory of this would slam and maybe sadden me if I could remember it when the tree sheds long strips of its bark and drops every last one of its orange leaves in autumn when time comes for it.
Compost, gate post, lamppost, leaf, possum tail and possum teeth. Sapling, dove wing, honeybee, three peaches on the tree. One turned brown, one stayed green, one was pierced by grackle beak. P-I-T spells pit sings she.