Paul Nelson, Coyote

Rosemary Bailey, Char 6



Late December, just beyond the windows where we stand with wine,
in full coat she claws frozen apples beneath the tree the children climbed.
Just bred we guess. Carbon our dog looks out, eager with awe.

I too want to go out there, say so, to caress her muzzle and ears,
lower my face to her yellow eyes, whisper words fatuous and loving.
She gaits into the woods and vanishes, howls at night on Pot Head
from her granite den, to the moon, to other singers on Woodruff Hill.
Her mate among them?

Shifting your hip, your way, you shake your head, toss your feral hair
and laugh out loud to think that I, mere man, could go out there and take
anything she offered, tongue or teeth.

Paul Nelson


Review by Brittney Corrigan

What I admire most about this poem is its attention to place and the poet’s exploration of how the wild inhabitants of a wild landscape also roam within our human hearts and minds. As the poem begins, the poet deftly juxtaposes the frozen outside world in which the coyote forages with the warm inside world of the humans and their dog. The first stanza sets the reader up to compare the domesticated with the undomesticated as the speaker of the poem watches the coyote safely from the window of his house.

In the second stanza, I was taken by how the speaker moves toward a longing to be part of the coyote’s realm. The imagery is vivid and specific, so that as a reader I can picture both the coyote and the named landscape through which she travels. The suggestion of the coyote’s mate calling for her moves the poem seamlessly into the third stanza, in which the speaker’s own mate becomes feral, embodies the coyote, and yet still gently mocks the speaker for his flight of fancy.

My favorite line in the poem is the very last one, in which coyote and woman become mysterious and unattainable, both sweet and fierce, and leave the speaker standing in a kind of awe that echoes the attention of the domestic dog in the opening scene. As I read this poem, my imagination was captured within this longing.


Review by Massimo Fantuzzi

     If you say run, I’ll run with you;
     If you say hide, we’ll hide.
     Because my love for you
     Would break my heart in two.
—David Bowie, “Let’s Dance.”

Visiting hours: December’s scarcity has forced a wild animal to come and shop for essentials in our garden/children’s playground. Our trusted partner stands by us. From behind our glass window and our glass of wine, we toy with the idea of going out there and introduce ourselves to this creature.

Carbon would, no hesitation, regardless of the dangers, Carbon remembers, Carbon has kept himself ready knowing what should be done: all is required of us is to say the word. We don’t, and the chance to do something “gaits into the woods.”

Next thing we know, a remote howling, mocking us, dismisses the whole encounter, and a song we don’t understand emerges from the wilderness, engaging in an exchange with the moon.

Back in the room, a man—paradigm of all men, undisputed tamer of heavens and earth—finds himself tamed to the point of becoming inconsequential, a “mere man.” And Carbon? We can’t shake off the unnerving thought that we’ve let our partner down, that we haven’t honoured to our side of the bargain. I’m not even sure that warmth, food, roof and all other material displays of love can compensate for what we took away from him.


Review by Ed Harkness

“Coyote” and “Carbon has Laid down” are conversational, prose-like in appearance but poetry-like in emotional concision. Both are sharply observant and understated. Both poems let us know exactly where we are. In “Coyote,” the speaker imagines going out to kneel by a coyote clawing frozen apples under a tree, to “whisper words fatuous and loving.” The poem undermines the usual image we have of coyotes as dangerous pests meant to be eradicated. Here, the poem allows us to imagine what it might be like to be a female coyote, “just bred,” starving. In its last line, “Coyote” takes a surprising turn by presenting an image I haven’t been able to get out of my head. I’ll say no more.


Review by Dave Mehler

These two by Paul Nelson, almost prose poems but still broken into lines, offer us an intimate glimpse into the lives of the poet and his wife, along with their family dog, Carbon. Paul’s poems have been featured in earlier issues of Triggerfish, and his wife Judith’s artwork was featured in Issue #17. “Coyote” is an observation of nature poem with a twist, operating on multiple levels. After witnessing a coyote foraging frozen apples beneath the snow, the speaker and his dog not only take note but long to interact with the animal. The speaker’s reaction is, as he knows, romantic, idealized, or as he says, “fatuous,” which his wife wryly points out with a posture and look which says, “Right, you want to go out and look into this wild animal’s eyes, and assuming she didn’t run off, would just as likely snarl and bite your nose off.”  For any unfamiliar with coyotes, I have heard stories by people (who have witnessed or experienced these things) that suggest these wily creatures will coax off domestic pets under the pretense of play or flirtation away from home only to have the pack rip them to shreds and feed on them as soon as they are lured and distracted from safety. What makes the poem is that the speaker is either not naïve himself and catches himself being a poet, or is made aware by his more realistic wife who knows her husband well enough to call him out on his bestial fantasy, and the poet suggests looks something like the human counterpart of the coyote herself in expression and posture. It’s a fascinating mirroring technique that offers impulse, gentle self-mockery, captures interesting observation and plight of survival in a harsh environment, recursively reflecting back on itself to become an interesting and comic domestic scene of long-standing marital relationship in which both partners know and love each other so well and so deeply. A lot happens in a very small, unpretentiously poetic space!


Review by Jared Pearce

The move to embrace the wild, whether that wildness is in ourselves, in another person, or in the actual wild wild, is, I think, central to most of us.  What I love best about this poem is how it moves from the wildness in the wild, the coyote, to the wildness of another person, a woman.  The poem gets a little saucy, a little fun, but never goes out of range of that initial impulse to touch and connect and maybe get sucked into the wilderness inside all of us, the feral behind our eyes.

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