by John Gardiner

Man keeps a razor at his cheek, scissors to his scalp
hangman’s tie around his throat,
runs on two legs plus four wheels, eats meat he hasn’t cooked
and doesn’t need, his belly’s more than full.

I pulled over in the canyon, traffic speeding by,
got out of my truck, hauled a dead coyote
off the road, people honked and screamed,
“Get out of the way!” Did they think I took its life?
I hope so — at least that would explain their hate.
“You can’t do that.” “Development might stop.” “We can’t care.”
“It’s just a mangy scavenger.” When I tried to get back on the road
no one yielded, so I got out again and lay down next to coyote.
I played dead while autos whistled by, no one stopped.

I asked coyote who would hear his cries in the night and he said,
“Only the blazing moon.”
I pledged my love to him and to the animal world.
I dreamt coyote dreams, slipped into his skin, brother of wolf,
cousin of dog.

I have run with them on four legs in a wilderness of dreams
eaten what I needed, thinned out the mice, worshipped the moon
howled with the goddess of open space and water holes
sniffed the ground and searched for my old friends, the Indians.
I wonder where they went—
they must have been hit by cars.
I am coyote, four legger, straw colored fur, survivor
so far.
“Coyote Blues” is found in Coyote Blues: Free Verse and Prose Poems by John Gardiner, available at

John Gardiner’s poetry will whisk you from subway to sea, from Russia to Rio to Reno, through chambers of the heart, into both ocean and space and back again to the songs of four-leggers-dogs, wolves, and coyotes. These finely honed poems will wrest you from your comfortable chair and you will alight in a place where “…night stretches her arms/and balances the stars…” and you will never perceive the moon in quite the same way again.”


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: John Gardiner has published 10 collections of poetry and his work has appeared in numerous anthologies, journals, and magazines, including two anthologies of California Poets (Tebot Bach), Spillway, The Sacred Beverage Press, Speakeasy, Write Bloody, Moon Tide Press, Poetry Flash (Berkeley), Windflower Press, California Poetry Quarterly, Art Life, and The Comstock Journal. In addition to hundreds of featured readings in the U.S., Gardiner has also performed in Russia, The Czech Republic, Italy, Germany, Ireland, and Brazil. He tours in a rock ‘n roll Shakespeare show called Shakespeare’s Fool, and has facilitated poetry readings, slams, and workshops in Laguna Beach for the past 16 years. Gardiner teachers drama, Shakespeare, and oral presentation for the Gifted Students Academy at the University of California, Irvine.