Coyotes’ yip and howl
at twilight
bring me
home, signal
the end of the day.
There is a familiarity,
a quieting;
a sudden, welcome
connecting.
Though guests and visitors
sometimes feel alarm
at the sound, I
never did. Perhaps because
our parents never said anything
to make us feel coyotes
were a menace to us;
it was always a delight
to be the one in the family car
alert enough
to spot a coyote in a pasture
along the road
during the day.
Yes, they could be a menace
to lambs, which is why
one of our farm chores as children
was to make the pleasant walk
down the lane and bring the sheep
into the corral for the night.
And yes, coyotes are alpaca’s
enemy, which is why the alpaca pen
has a strong welded wire fence.
And yes, coyotes feast
on cats and chickens.

They have been coming closer.
Into the yard at the Pond House,
in mid-afternoon. We no longer
keep chickens at the Pond House.
And come late autumn, chickens
are not allowed out of the barn
until spring.
The yip and howl at twilight
lately sometimes sounds like it’s coming
from the edges
between “our” part of the prairie
and “theirs”—a little farther away,
their dens tucked around the
almost-mesas that rise
out there on the prairie.
I have always thought
they were afraid
of us.
I remember one Sunday afternoon,
out for a walk with the dogs, as we sat
atop one of the mesas,
how delighted I was to watch a coyote
catch sight of us and stand at a safe distance
and howl. She stood her safe ground
and howled for a long time. As I remember
that day, the dogs and I moved away first,
so she could give her voice a break.

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The lines between us
seem to be getting blurry. Some say
it is because of the drought. We are closer
than coyotes are
to the water now, as farm ponds have dried.
This winter has been colder,
earlier,
than recent winters, so
some days I have to tend to frozen water
in bird, dog and cat bowls next to the house
more than once a day.
There are no water bowls
at the round-top barn.
The closest would be the bowls
at the back door of the Farm House,
a mere hundred feet away from the barn
where I found
a dead coyote
lying in a pile of spilled straw.
I was stunned.
A coyote
in the barn
dead.

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Its winter coat
seems to have only grown
half-way across its body.
One of its meat-chewing teeth
is exposed from its pointy mouth,
quiet now.
I don’t know what
to make of it.
I’m sure coyotes die,
naturally,
regularly. Why did this one
leave its clan,
come to the barn?
I’m glad it was quiet
about it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFarmhouse and round-top barn, in proximity