Coyote howling in the snow

Two Poems by Cassandra Cleghorn

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

On the Last Day of Coyote’s Estrus

@ Green Mountains National Forest
2/15/21, 3:44 pm EST, 12 ° F

of course the shepherd wants
to writhe around on it working
into shaft
                          & pore the
                          instant funk

I growl me
first  knees
to the snow pack
eyes cradling

three lengths of
colorless winter scat
laid a thumbwidth from
                          one broad hole scalded
                          sulphurous in the February
                          shave ice & just
                                                                  pinkish blur
                                                                  of her blood
                                                                  a pinch wicked
that comes at me
does its coming
as inkling nearly

           it’s three weeks
           since Kelly curved herself
           beside the body
           already begun
           to seek the kitchen’s
           ambient temp
           she shutting shy
           his one eye still
           the better
           to hear

                                                  & one week
                                                  since the tracer
                                                  pushed into
                                                  Katie’s frail
                                                  vein lighting up
                                                  the dread
                                                  in how                       many                   
                                                  tell me please
                                                                  how        very          many           cells—

           & last night
           I was asked to
           visualize the cervix
           of a stranger
           that it might
           ripen by morning
           as does
           the reluctant

it’s a minute
since I bled
                                                                                   was hollowed


with what
will make coyote
squat again dab
smack at path’s center
where the right nose
will home soonest

the shrivening
woods will whet us
tonight seeming multiply
to throat & tongue much
many more than
there are
rumps that lock

tonight my thoughtless

           foot                    will rove
                                      against the cool sheet
will graze
           yours will
           pin its



The Vow

Groggily he pronounced me the keeper
of the can. It fell to me as well to receive
from his muddy grip each plum-pink crawler,
doubling it onto the jagged barb,
two bulges where the hook sunk in.
His red canvas chair, his hands, miniatures
of my own, and his happy little fusses,
noting every twitch of the tremulous line.
Across the pond, hundreds of geese practiced
stillness, incurious about our doings
on the narrow causeway. The sky was
perhaps hushed, a sly dawn, enormous,
unspectacular, as some skies tend to be.
It has been twenty years after all.
In the leafless air, our voices were
what we heard, each echoing the other’s
vow to come back here and do this again
and again. We must have brought along
a bucket just in case, big enough to haul
the hold he had in mind, sound enough
to store every scrap I cannot now recall.
But for this: the rambunctious roiling
of mutual alarm as the geese barked,
loping across the water toward us, lifting off
in ruffles, a mass unfurling over our heads, 
their air on our faces upturned, their legs
dangling down, their black webbed feet,
like sudden silly afterthoughts. The pond
would have settled quickly, as ponds do,
as ponds will do.




Cassandra CleghornWinner of the Iron Horse Literary Review NaPoMo 2021 prize, Cassandra Cleghorn published Four Weathercocks in 2016 with Marick Press. Her poems and reviews have appeared in many journals, including Paris Review, Yale Review, OmniVerse, Poetry International, Boston Review, Colorado Review, and Field. She lives in Vermont, teaches at Williams College, regularly reviews poetry for Publishers Weekly, and serves as poetry editor of Tupelo Press. For more info see

Header photo by My Generations Art, courtesy Shutterstock. is the world’s first online journal of place, publishing a rich mix of literature, art, commentary, and design since 1998.