I’m proud to say that I have a poem, “The Coyote Doesn’t Have To,” in the Fall 2016 issue of Amethyst Arsenic. I’m ecstatic to see this poem roaming out in the wild, and I can’t thank guest editors Staci Schoenfeld and M. Brett Gaffney enough.
I wrote the first draft of this poem in April of 2014. That was, of course, National Poetry Month, which meant that I was writing a poem every day of that month. I was particularly lucky during that particular National Poetry Month because I wasn’t writing alone. Instead, I shared a collaborative writing space in the form of a blog with students and fellow faculty members. This poem arrived at the end of the month, and I remember feeling strangely vulnerable when I posted it. I’m not sure that, even now, I can articulate the reasons why. I do know that this poem originated in one of those faraway moments of fear that happen in childhood and haunt adulthood. When I was six years old, my parents and I moved from Alabama to Arizona. I was the kind of child who got upset when lunch plans changed; needless to say, I did not adjust well. We lived on the edge of the desert with only a concrete bricked wall between us and the Saguaros and sand, and I was terrified. Every sound, every rustle, and — especially — every howl made me bristle with fear.
That’s where the poem started.
I had a lot of faith in this little poem. Even though I felt vulnerable about it, I still felt as though there was something important about it. I sent this poem out over and over again and it was rejected over and over again. I’m glad about that, though, because I feel like this is the exact right moment for this poem to make its way out into the world.
The reason for that is that the poem didn’t end in the same place in which it started. In fact, the poem ended up in the very opposite place. When I wrote the poem, I began in that howl, that moment of wordless, inchoate fear. However, as I wrote, as the coyote began to move across the page, gathering muscle and teeth and fur, I felt the moment change. I began to empathize with the coyote, who, I discovered as I wrote, was a female. I began to see her not as a destroyer but as a creator, as a protective force who would fight any evil enemy in all of that darkness to save what she loved. The coyote’s howl became a war-cry of power, a clarion call for strength, and a warning for any beast who tries to come for all that she held holy.
There is no better time for that energy to be released into the world.