Av Paul Schreiber
up on the raised skirts
of that immodest city of Angels,
on warm summer nights
we played hide and seek in the yard until late,
or looked down from the foothills
and watched the wide delicate skein of city lights
shimmer Pasadena and Hollywood --
when the dark ridge above our neighborhood,
would suddenly wake in that high-pitched howl
yodelling agony, yipping in pain.
"Coyotes" my brother's whisper explained,
"they're hungry, watch out!“
He would, of course, then run away
and I would listen, alone under the camelias
to those voices that could strain
a note to its edge
long before I heard John Coltrane
Tone, flung away up there, high,
opening a space in the dark crystal sky
floating A flat, bending the note slow
like a tweaked key on a brass sax, alto,
then dropping doppler-like into pianissimo,
two bars rest, who made that line?
a calling together, a welcome to jam,
another does that Blue Rhapsody lead
sliding up the spine on a clarinet reed,
far away there,
cool jazz, moving slow
the body knows,
like a pulse, like death, like a longing for love,
he croons, fine tunes the yawlp, the great aaoooo!
long ago. Now
a friend, more dear to me than principles
wears on her arms and back
the sandy blond hides of eighteen coyotes.
I sharpen a joke but smile,
the nerve. We chalk it up
to quaint old values, the old fight
to save the odd species,
we ironize on leather boots.
I do not howl, my voice is gone
that might have howled,
lacking courage, for I too am
more scavenger than predator, word-varmint,
snuffling through old carcasses of imagery
trash piles of rhythms and rhymes. I retreat
from any snarling critique.
Last summer, back in the place of my youth,
I saw that the dark ridge had grown full
new houses with Roman porticos
and Tudor towers with commanding views
and big price tags,
had grown full of lights,
shining bright behind a silhouette of silence.