Paul Nelson: Coyotes

In a shaft of brass light
down through spruce, a big
chocolate male, done for the year,
pads across moss, dissolves in shadow.

The tattered blond bitch stands in bright
spring grass edging the woods.
Hanks drag from her molting flanks,
ears alert for mice and voles.
Two pale kits dive after each other.
Shorter ears and heavier bodied
than western cartoons; “coy-dog” some say.
Her heavy rotting tail drapes,
eyes generous and frank.

This morning on three legs another bitch
crabs across Nebraska’s 1-90 in a whiteout,
men standing down at truck stops,
diesels thrumming and clacking in the lots.

Shaky behind the slapping wipers, I barely see her
hop South through the barbed wire
onto stubbled acres of ice and drifting snow
where men set traps to kill “vermin”
that will freeze, coiled down on steel and chain,
get skinned and nailed to a shed with others,
or thaw come spring to feed the ravens.
She chewed her own leg off.
A sixteen wheeler passes like a war.

I draft in its wake as it shelves the storm
over and by me, watching for its tail lights
to blink …muzzle flash, signals
to follow in the blur.

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