Lame Coyote

by Helen Reed Lehman

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 osteomyolitis
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.

And yet he feeds the coyotes,
Hopping like a shaman
As he scatters Purina.

What has mercy to do
With the Anza-Borego?
Fellow-feeling is the last
trap we learn to avoid.