Lame Coyote

My brother, who is lame,

Counts among the little band of coyotes

Whom he feeds,

A lame one.


The coyote, we assume, ransomed his foot

To trap jaws,

Buying freedom.

The careening jacks must leave him in the dust.

Ground squirrels and lizards

Fall sometimes to the sudden pounce

Of wit and patience.

He has a witty grin, this wild dog.


My brother was a tumbler.

He broke his hip,

Falling from the top

Of a pyramid of boys.

He kept the ostyomyolitis

Into old age.


We told my widowed brother that he worried us,

Out There in the Desert Alone.

Couldn’t he be sensible?

The desert was no place for a lame man.

He didn’t take the bait.


The desert years have dried him, made him


He could live

On coyote melons and kangaroo rats.


Sudden squealing death and parched agony

Surround his house.

My brother says, “Life is tough.”

He says, “That’s the way things are.”

My brother wants his life to be

An arroyo seco,

An empty river,

Not scoured by freshets of compassion.

But he feeds the coyotes,

Hopping like a shaman as he scatters Purina.



What has mercy to do

With the Anza-Borrego?

Fellow-feeling is the last trap we learn to avoid.


Lame Coyote

Helen R. Lehman