He watches
from the edge of the hillside, where the land
turns into town. Like a dog, but not,
in the first light
and the quiet. If I move again
he’ll turn to nothing.

But he knows too much,
despite my silence, sees me and hears me,
his gaunt head, his thin legs,
his entire body aimed in my direction, but without
seeming to shift, first motionless,
and then motionless again. His ears
take me in, this cool morning,
drought lingering long after the season
should have turned. What else should I be

doing now? I have a day
ahead of me, and I am nearly late. The roofers
are starting their own efforts,
from far off the scent of tar and the wheezy rumble
of melting roof-stuff. A human voice
reaches this far, and a responding laugh.
On the hill the dry rye and oat weeds are
all around, but when the coyote passes
through them he leaves
no parting. In no haste,

he is there, and then there, and when he is gone
completely he surely must be
invisible, watching from a shadow where
there is only blank sun.
Why do I feel
such quiet joy? I approach
his place and stand on the ridge,
no sign of him,
except a lapse in the dry grasses where during
the night he must have rested, he
rolled and slept,
here where the weeds are already
shifting, their lifeless stems
just now closing to
haphazard perfection.



       This is where the day
       meets night, in this
       dark eye, this single-point
       decimal, and in
       this wet talon, lifted and
       once again secreted from light,
       in this reflection
       stretching up to touch
       the knife he has grown out of his
       body. When this mathematician
       looks at you he takes you up
       in his reckoning as
       no loving creature ever could,
       seeing how little you have to offer, and seeing
       how easy you would be to subtract.
       He knows enough of how this all began,
       how the muddy gravel at the bottom
       of the watercourse tastes
       of the first zero,
       and he knows his}
       stalking vigil,
       alive to the fingerlings
       in the opaque and brackish
       boundary between what lives
       and what will never
       take breath. His beak
       comes up empty.
       It slices down again—
       empty once more.
       Time and calendars,
       doubt and investigation,
       dissolve. He knows
       what stirs the fugitive
       to flee, to dart from murk|
       to scissoring, swallowed
       conclusion—and from time
       to time escape,
       splashing free. So that it starts anew,
       yet again, the account
       continuing, every instant an end.

Michael Cadnum has published nearly forty books. His new collection of poems, The Promised Rain, is in private circulation. He lives in Albany, California.

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Published in the April 14, 2017 issue: View Contents
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