Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Last Wolf, Coyote Grief

I am going to post two poems about the end of the world. One is mine, one by Mary Tallmountain. Ms. Tallmountain's poem is one I chose to read at an evening reading at the Carnegie Center in Oregon City a couple years ago. It sticks in my heart and pains me. I took my turn.

The Last Wolf
Mary Tallmountain

The last wolf hurried toward me through the ruined city.
I heard his baying echoes down the steep smashed warrens
of Montgomery Street and past the ruby-crowned highrises
left standing, their lighted elevators useless -

Passing the flicking red and green of traffic signals,
He bayed his way eastward in the mystery of his wild loping gait.
Closer were his sounds in the deadly night through the clutter
and rubble of quiet blocks.

I heard his voice ascending the hill
and at last his low whine as he came, floor by empty floor,
to the room where I sat in my narrow bed looking west,
waiting, I heard him snuffle at the door and I watched.

He trotted across the floor.
He laid his long gray muzzle
on the spare white spread
and his eyes burned yellow.
His small dotted eyebrows quivered.

Yes, I said.
I know what they have done.

from Light on a Tent Wall, 1990
University of California, Los Angeles, CA


Coyote Grief

That's when the night stilled,
hardened, and the tight stars choked
and fell to flat earth,
dead embers. The sky
was no longer black, dim gray.

Coyote's sadness
is deeper than hope.

She snuffs at dead stars amazed,
confused, wants to put
them back, cannot reach
that high, to the dim flat sky.
Her howl tears her throat.

February 17, 2009 9:11 AM


  1. I am her today, that coyote....


  2. I would stand at your side, and snuff the dead stars with you.

  3. It's more like prophesy than poetry. In our quest to conquer, to know, to push...we will oneday un-do ourselves. I'd kinda like to be there for the reboot.

  4. W&W, It feels like that, doesn't it. I am nearly 64. The first one of these "uh-oh we're all going to die!" for me was Sputnik (1957). Of course, my Dad and Mom both felt they were fighting to save the world in WWII. I got into astrological circles and found there are periodic cycles with end of the world written on it. Now 2012 figures large. I know people who really took Y2K seriously. Having gone through so many of them I wonder.

    The apocalyptic sentiment seems widespread, but I would say not necessarily universal. Not every religious system holds with it, or at least not as centrally as we are used to in Christendom. I don't know what I really think anymore except to know that I have an inner state that is apocalyptic. This basically welds to "Oh shit, I am going to die!"

  5. Ha! I took Y2K seriously, well kinda. I was prepared with my cupboards full of necessities and oil lamps. Still have the lamps. Just waiting for an excuse to use them. Oh, and the poop pot (bucket with loads of plastic liners). Still have that too. Thankfully never used. I can be such an idiot. Bring on 2012. I am no longer concerned. Take me. Take me now.

  6. I have been known to utter those words too...take me now. Mostly though, I am just conscious that everything essential is done. I have nothing I must fight to stay for. I say I have taken on a spiritual task here. For this reason I am not permitted to actively seek a way out, but instead to live as best I can until I can't. I just know that in a radical way, all that is in God's hands.

  7. Thanks for sharing the Tallmountain one, and thanks for your own as well... both ring with such a kind of bittersweet beauty.

    As for 2012: the Mayan calendar runs on a much longer cycle than people realize, and 2012 is not a big deal. It will signify a change, but not the implosion of the Earth (or whatever that film they're making is about). And the Maya themselves are saying, "come ON, guys": http://www.sltrib.com/Nation%20and%20World/ci_13534048 :)

  8. I know. However, the astronomical event is intriguing to some. There is no science in it in this sense: about 26,000 years ago this same event occurred and there is no clear record of it, not like the Yucatan meteor that seemingly wiped out the dinosaurs and even older impacts and world wide extinctions, not like the ice ages themselves, which we are still in actually according to some.

    I am not one who makes a big thing out of 2012. I am one who committed to astrology for a long time and still respects it in certain ways. I am not really a practitioner now but still know how to cast a chart, even by hand, since I learned by hand. Back in the late seventies I thought astrology might turn out to figure in my profession. It never did. I come at 2012 and these cycles from the basic understanding that we are never not in them. Why only conjunction? That's what this alignment is, earth, Sun and the so-called center of the galaxy. But why decide that the first degree of Capricorn is the precise conjunction? Why not the opposition or the trine or the square? Why not something like a double quincunx, often called the yod? Or other grand crosses and trines and even more complex geometric figures formed out of the traditional bodies with this center of the galaxy?

    I feel like there is a crossing of realms, the symbolic with the scientific in a way that reifies the issue too much. You see? There is an arbitrariness in all this that can't be denied.

  9. Coyote grief has got to be one of my all-time favourites of yours. I still have it in my sidebar, for safekeeping.

  10. Rachel, I changed the last line. Thank you for the honor you have bestowed on this poem.


The chicken crossed the road. That's poultry in motion.

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