A Country Called Desire
by Rachel Economy
Coyote spins her tricks grinning amongst the granite and no one ever believes she is really that nice. They laugh at her capers but edge along margins of blackberry brambles to give her room for all those teeth as she passes by. I wonder if I grew my canines longer if my smile would mean more like that. Lean more like that. I stick my tongue in my cheek and do tricks with the conversation, sassafras fizzle, things taken un-serious, the giggle when the pancakes bubble in too late to a meeting and pull up several squeaky chairs, get blueberry stains on the rug. Coyote does not go to meetings so no one can blame her if they find her outside laughing at them all. If she contorts, gleeful rapture or ruination, at the pain of Milky Way’s spread across the ceiling of her world. At how much it hurts, good paint on a stiff brush that scrapes canvas, trying to fit all that burning cold light into one pair each of pricked ears and pointed teeth.
Coyote slinks off in disgust at how much philosophy I have spilled, thick and sticky like old coffee, across the kitchen table. The air also thick and sticky, this mouth moves because the air won’t- silence goes easier, then, in the wind? Do we tire each other, trees grown too close and no water in the dust-wise hills of this fault line land? Coyote hunkers in the bushes to nurse the wounds of too many words. Howls a song about body, about gentle tearing of laundry sheets and skin, about diving nose-first without perfection. This is called the hunt. Coyote goes and plays tricks on the train tracks. Flips the switch between Burlingame and mid-ocean ridge. Turns the one that splits my tongue your neck from a country called desire, then the one that wavers forward to books you pulled from under me, wavers back to the meteors’ indentation in tamped down meadow grass.
Coyote loves the pack until the pack asks her to sip from a bowl that tastes of tin. Coyote leaves for a day to drink from wild rivers. The pack howls in distress and disapproval even though it still looks like grinning. She comes home and they curl up around the shape of imagined throat songs, drinks that are different for different guts.
Coyote sneaks into the blackberry tangle to lick the juice off your tongue. You grin back at her. I, wary, nonetheless follow. Nonetheless play tracker to my own desire. I hear banjo liquid slip off your lip and begin to run. I catch it in my open smiling mouth.
You and coyote sit, circle each other, tangle languid under the blue oak spread. Ants bite your ankles but it tickles like good love. You roll over and gently bite each other’s necks in that canine way, rough affection, the gentle teeth sing. Coyote and I share a mouth but she uses the throat to howl and I use it to ask you questions about the past.
Coyote is confused by comfort. If hackles lie flat do we still want? What portion of want is fear, what measure of terror in teeth do I need against my bottom lip while my claws or paws, can’t remember which, ponder and press at your hipbones? Have you noticed how a pelvis is shaped like a Manzanita tree fort atop a hidden hill? Did you hear the singing from that hilltop when we lay in the meadow and practiced panting like wild dogs? We circle each other in a kitchen of old appliances that hunker down, cozy and dull chrome in the corners, stove knobs that require our hands to touch as we remember how to light fire, which size ring it will make. We press sausage patties into the pan and slip our claws or paws, can’t remember which, into each other’s pockets and our pockets into each other’s pockets and our cheeks into each other’s cheeks.
Will it become difficult to kiss you without bleeding? Without causing blood? I sometimes keep fists in the pockets I slip into your pockets. Urgency raises, rage stares comfort down. Coyote says listen we are not all wild all the time. Coyote says I am not a wolf and not a dog.
Coyote howls and I hang stranded diagonal on the low side of a highway. Coyote tears at her rough autumn fur, a predator but with prey-fear blood, terror coursing through. She stood a month ago on a river that felt liquid cold, icy-stream, perfect for lapping at haunches and the lips of other dogs. You, smoke dog lips, you, ice that looks like river, I think we are moving but it turns out everything is frozen. You don’t want me near to melt you with my panting jowls, my three turns in the snow before together we lie down. You lie down. You lie. You leave but coyote and I don’t know, still think this is river water, good for drinking from, deep.
We would like to frisk in the snow. To love your cold without hurting it with our heat. We want our visions of froze ragged roadways to be on point but they are on cliff instead. Nothing is the curve of night blizzard highway that it seems, brakes fail, the stopgap fails, eventually, eventually, gravity shifts from the floor to the wall. River was always frozen but we didn’t know. Beset. Perception wrong, we wild dogs we, we only see in certain colors and I guess that’s how I missed your ice prints leading away, quiet, away.
Coyote calls and the rains come. They come inside her throat as a hacking howl, cough of winter crashes in. They come to the river and it becomes a cylinder of force and forgetting, where all those gold constellations of hope for a little cash wash into the canyon. Coyote doesn’t like stove fire, it burns strong and sharp, overdries her mouth. She dreams and I dream: curled into a ball or a child, we, an animal in a quilt. In the dream, the drythroat belies pain, unheard or unhinged. You come. At the door you are not strong and sharp as usual. You wear a red-dun shirt. You are a stoked warmth, an ember that will keep relighting, the tended that too can tend. I reach for you, coyote still curled inside my coughing chest, and you walk gentle to the bed and lay your length along the ridgeline of my spine. Coyote croons and whimpers, breathes again, knowing the gentleness is not truly you but her lungs clear for it and so she does not care.
Coyote wakes me up with rough wet noises in my lungs. Bronchial requiem, a cacophony of cracking and phlegm. In the wet grey morning, her teeth glint with rain. So last week you built a fire to call me home when I was stuck slip-fast in the storm, sliding off of mountains. The tenderness of this fact cracks open in me like a sweet nut but doesn’t stay. What good does it do to light something ablaze and leave it untended, dying down? Summer flamed us corn-yellow high. Now in rain we are a nothing, fizzle, you walk my face like you walk over wet leaves and smile. Coyote’s teeth go un-whetted, lately, she is looking for something rampant and overrun to try them out on. Your calves collecting acorns look particularly firm.
Coyote dreams herself rag-feathered and flies south. Her gums, blood-cover, no telling hers or whose? Before she goes, Coyote kisses your specter on the cheek in the ever-rain, winter’s west. Her tongue barbs in your mist, old burrs, the reminders, ghosts and straw-plant remains you left invisible here in my thighs and chest, that night in the meadow. My furred animal edges are still full of tenacious-toothed, dead brown seeds.
The den has disseminated. No the den has dissipated. All our false children, the learners, gone the rain-run hill. Sometimes, coyote howls into my left ear. I remember my remainder, the parts of this assemblage that do not gravitate, that express no physics towards you. It is a difficult astronomy. We, always in planetary or particle motion, the relation of bodies hurtling, hurting, this kitchen universe, this wild wracked world.
Coyote dreams herself rag-feathered and I am her mouth. I settle in for a long winter. I cannot tell: the fire of loving you on rough ground despite your absence (or your presence but your planet’s poison air), does it burn, blister? Does it warm and wend? What makes the shape of healing, the migration towards the sky on the shortest day?
About Rachel Economy
Rachel Economy is a writer, educator, and farmer living in Berkeley, California. Currently pursuing a master’s degree examining the place of story in resilient systems design, Rachel also teaches writing to all ages. At Wildword Workshops, she co-facilitates classes that combine animal tracking and poetry writing. Rachel’s poetry, essays, and nonfiction have appeared in Watershed Journal of Environment and Culture, Dark Mountain Blog, Kingfisher, Index/Fist, and the Brown University journals Visions and The Round. Her thoughts on writing and other entanglements can be found at gatecitygardener.wordpress.com.