coyote thomas hawk
I Am Not a Dog
by Mary O’Brien

I hear you early, morning,
when I am reading and trying
to write about the wildness so distant to me now.

I hear you trickster—chattering, signaling.
You have seized upon the avenue of encroachment
left by our retreat into urban lives.

Along the edge you travel,
You do not blink, but skulk,
your sacred manner Twain’s living allegory of Want.

If you are foraging an opening into our world,
prying an edge we think is seamed shut,
could you catch our long-tailed, big-toothed, shaggy marauders
venturing into your domain, when curbside bins are empty?

Soon you may be scarce again.
Through withdrawal or attrition,
your howl silenced, at our hand.

Telemetry is tracking you,
An ear tag guarantees your future.
Did you notice? You were not supposed to mind.

PHOTO: Coyote by Thomas Hawk.

obrien coyote
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: During the great pause, I thought frequently of the vacancy humans had left in the wilderness we are so fond of making into our playground. Were its wild inhabitants doing better without us? This poem was written in the early morning hours, when the air is still and all is quiet. I could hear the wildlife on the periphery of my neighborhood going about their business during the hours we humans usually sleep. Neighborhood dogs sleep too, unaware their territory is being invaded by their nocturnal kin. Native American legend, as well as the scientific name Canis latrans, tag Coyote as “barking dog.” But in the legend, Coyote, the Trickster, claps back: “I am not a dog.”

PHOTO: California Coyote by Mary O’Brien.

Mary O'Brien-2021 copy

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mary O’Brien is an environmental writer and installation artist. Her writing evolves out of her engagement with place and community, and the research she develops for environmental art installations. Her nonfiction works delve into ecological loss and community resilience. O’Brien’s public art installations can be seen at watershedsculpture.com. Her essays have been published in Soren Lit, Field to Palette, Stanford University’s MAHB Journal; The Solutions Journal; and in Women’s Eco Artist Dialogue. Visit her on Facebook and Instagram.

Author photo by Daniel McCormick.