by Tamara Miles
The Navajo say that in the beginning, the sky and the earth touched,
and at the spot where they met, Coyote sprung up out of the ground.
He cannot be hunted, but he can be found.
Coyote is called upon by the earth for help to stretch its boundaries,
imagined and real, and he is not afraid to steal, if it is necessary.
Slim muzzle, light on his feet, known for slipping
easily across borders, coming and going, back and forth with ease —
but in reality, he’s a little … on edge, if you please, a little tightly strung
on the wire.
I heard he sets the night on fire.
How else to maneuver, negotiate with sleepy border guards, or time
the crossing with shadow and light.
If he wants, he breaks the lights by throwing rocks,
then carries immigrants across. His aim is true. If you ask, he’ll carry you.
In some Native American creation myths, coyote is the Creator himself,
but this is not his only role. Coyote has a daring soul.
He transforms himself into a variety of beings including a fool or a cultural hero.
He is a controversial character, and a catalyst for change, so if the world
around you looks a little strange, he might be near.
We never know when or where he might appear. He is also known
for uninhibited lust and associated with sexual power.
He shows up looking good and hungry at the cocktail hour.
Canis latrans, brother from the other side of the coin, the rusty side
to your shiny penny, but no less slick for that, greased up as he is, and free,
and females like that ragged breath he draws with excitement
just before he makes a move.
Coyote has nothing and everything to prove.
In the 1960’s, a woman named Margo St. James fell into a lifestyle
that led to an arrest for turning tricks, of which she was not guilty,
but a label sticks. After that, the doors for regular jobs were closed,
so the fable came true. She laid the law down, so to speak, all over town.
Police, judges, and lawyers — tricksters all — were regular clients
of St. James’ contextual sexual science.
During the years that followed, she met the writer Tom Robbins
at a kind of commune she was living in, and as she prepared his breakfast
the next morning, he said, “I know you. You’re the coyote trickster.”
With that, she had the acronym for a new sex workers’
rights movement, Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics.
Coyote is said to be able to change the direction of rivers and create new landscapes.
Put him behind bars, and he escapes.
This old boy can’t stay long; his ears are pointed in a different direction, his strategies
You’ll see his grizzled gray-brown coat slip away before dawn, this one you built a dream upon, when you are safely on the ground where you wanted to be, having lost your old fears and adopted new ones,
of never seeing him again, or hearing his stories of bravado,
half of which he might be making up. He’ll say, “Gotta go. Look me up.”
It doesn’t matter if you take action. He is a master of distraction.
He will bring you untold, if temporary, satisfaction.
Like you, the earth is tangled up with coyote, her solace in the night,
her red tail light, but he’s headed back to mountain, swamp, or forest.
The earth’s coyote is a tourist.
The Navajo have said, “It will avail nothing to be angry with Coyote,
wrathy words and loud commands will not influence him.”
Coyote controls the rain, and it is he who stole the stars and scattered them.
About Tamara Miles
Tamara Miles teaches college English, Humanities, and College Skills in South Carolina. Her poetry has appeared in Fall Lines; O’Bheal Five Words; Love is Love; Not Enough to Quit; Pantheon Magazine; The Tishman Review; and Apricity. She is a proud member of Irish writer Jane Barry’s online creativity salon known asThat Curious Love of Green and a 2016 contributor at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference.