POETRY – My Last Coyote by Liane Strauss

My Last Coyote

That’s him, down there, my masterpiece,

in tatters. That smouldering viscid blitz

of broken yolks dappling the ruddy dust

like early morning shadows on a country lane,

that’s the last sunset of, I almost said, his guts,

the final smattering of what was never more

than a scant smattering. Those linty pearls

and mawkish threads that weep and cling

among the milkweed, waste and ditch,

that’s his lifeblood, that’s his coyote soul.

That wrung-out icteritious sponge?

Why, that’s his heart, that once was steeped

in madder lake. As for that cubist bungle

over there, that hash of leg, bone, hide and ganglia —

those were his parts, with them I made him up,

like a coyote cowboy Frankenstein.

See how he seems arranged

(arraigned, I nearly said) as in a lover’s

last bouquet, a festering blush of petal, sepal,

thorn and stem. That mess is him, who never

missed his mark, or minced his words,

and, of course, me, and what I’ve done

again. My last big misinterpretation. My

supreme work of art. But whether he is

inside-out or outside-in, don’t be alarmed.

How often I beheld the canny likeness

of a protozoa in suspense

eye-dropped onto a slide, only to find

my love, transparent, ruptured, muddled,

wrenched, more convoluted even than

his every doomsday dream.

How fitting, then, how dense, the wild-eyed fur

singed into clumps of umber, mange and wisps

of feeling flesh, the acrid smoke and stench

of all that almost passed for almost wit

I almost said. The all-in-all of him,

down to the last surrendered bitter shred.

In spite of cognisance of which

see how he stipulates and foams and spits

conditions into full-blown, fulsome, loving

threats till he brings down another storm

in clouds that roll their shadows over these,

my fragile fugues of canyon, paintbrush, mesa,

rose bluff, rock cress, butte, plateau.

Where is a landscape I could love more than this?

Its Hammerklavier sunups. Its glowering sets.

Its noons that sheer off cliff drops and dead ends.

The burnished grand formality of these formations

that resemble, nearly, men, frame

vistas deeper and more vast than words,

promise farther than the eye can breathe.

Sweet selenite and darling shale.

Heart-rending dune, the woe of ironstone.

Where solid crystals blaze like unlit stars

and ranges vanish in the heat,

no trick of the perspective, or the rest.

Liane Strauss is the author of Leaving Eden (Salt, 2010) and Frankie, Alfredo, (Donut Press, 2009). Her poems have appeared in Poetry, The Hudson Review, The Iowa Review, The Georgia Review, Cimarron, Boulevard, Prairie Schooner, Poetry Review and Salmagundi, among others. Poetry Daily has published her work and used her Poet’s Pick commentary on John Gower’s version of Pygmalion as part of their annual fund-raising drive. Her first poetry manuscript was shortlisted for the Donald Justice Poetry Prize, the Four Ways Book Prize, the May Swenson Poetry Award and the Robert Penn Warren Poetry Prize Competition.

Selections of her work and commissioned poems have been included in a number of anthologies, including The Art of Wiring, edited by Christopher Reid, and A Poetic Primer for Love and Seduction: Naso Was My Tutor, inspired by Ovid’s Cure for Love. She is also among the guest poets on www.clivejames.com and is currently putting the finishing touches on both a single-themed chapbook entitled All the Ways You Still Remind Me of the Moon and a new full-length poetry manuscript, We’re All Fine. She is the Head of Poetry in Creative Writing at Birkbeck College, University of London. 

Featured Image photograph by E.B. Bartels, www.ebbartels.com.

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