I read this poem last year when it was a finalist in the Terrain.org Poetry Contest. Then, I bought both of Cecily Parks’s books. I couldn’t get this poem out of my mind, and now a year later, I’m still thinking about it. I’m sharing it here, but go read the rest of her work on Terrain.org (and surf around and read a bunch more on their site because it’s awesome).
If You Were to Build a Coyote
If you were to build a coyote with your child, you might begin
with a leaf pile as big around as your child’s arms.
You might place the leaves into a trash bag.
You might cut out triangles from brown paper
grocery bags using the blunt-tipped scissors with purple handles
that your child can use to cut by herself. You might guide
her hands. Two triangles for ears, one upside-down triangle
for a face. A piece of brown twine you found in the garden
for a tail. If you don’t make legs
for your coyote, she can’t run away from you,
you might tell your child, who solemnly nods and hugs
the crackling animal she’s made. The coyote,
you might tell your child, figures greatly in American Indian mythology
as a trickster. The trick is that the coyote
hunts the rats and the pomegranates rotting in the grass
or pushes her black nose through the soft shit-steaming diapers,
coffee grounds, and avocado peels we put outside
our house. The trick is that the coyote has learned to live
with ryegrass and trash cans, mountain laurel and the moist low places
in the garden. You might tell your child that at night
the coyote drinks the rainwater pooled in the smooth white stones
outside her bedroom window. With a rough warm tongue.
If you wake up in the night, you might hear her lapping, and it sounds
like water dripping in the sink. If you step out of your bed
and go to the window, the coyote will turn to you
with hazel eyes, regard you coolly until she sees
that it’s you, the one who made her,
and then she might tell you about her night, and yours.
by Cecily Parks
PS The hill that I live on is called “Coyote Hill” by some of the locals. We do indeed have a group that lives above us, and who come to the edge of the bench to call and watch. The sounds of the revelry is at once chilling and exhilarating.