Coyote Yodel

Now, out here where the prairies brush against the sky,
When moonlight strokes the sagebrush-covered hill,
Coyotes raise their voices in their ancient cry
To howl about the news both good and ill.
But one coyote never seemed to have the knack,
Could never seem to bark or yip or bay.
His eyes upon the moon, he’d breathe and arch his back—
And he’d yodel the night away.

His neighbors always used to give him sideways stares;
They’d disappear when evening rolled around.
He’d hear them in the distance howling, groups and pairs,
And curse this strange disease that held him bound.
Declaring with a solemn vow to bite his tongue,
He’d creep into a hole and try to stay.
The moon would drag him out, demand her song be sung,
And he’d yodel the night away.

That final dawn, he simply couldn’t face the rest,
Afraid at last his lonely heart would burst.
He turned and ran, his shadow dark and stretching west,
Through summer sun, through hunger, and through thirst.
What tripped him up as darkness fell, he never knew,
But sprawling on the desert sand he lay.
And panting there, he heard a sound that grew and grew:
A she-coyote yodeling away.
He found her by her silhouette against the moon,
Her silver fur a beacon in the night.
Renewed, he roused his voice to quickly join her tune,
And never had his warbles felt so right.
They’ve been together all these years, come dry or damp.
And if within that desert land you stray,
Their family cry will fill the sky above your camp
As they yodel the night away.

— Michael H. Payne

Michael H. Payne‘s short fiction has appeared in places like Asimov’s SF magazine, the Writers of the Future collection, and the last ten volumes of the annual Sword and Sorceress anthology, and his novels have been published by Tor Book and Sofawolf Press.  He’s posted at least 11 pages of webcomics every week to various sites for over a dozen years even though he doesn’t draw very well, and he curates My Little Pony fanfiction on the web for Equestria Daily and the Royal Canterlot Library.

Editor’s Note: The author said that the original poem’s structure was inspired by a country/western song, which contained a bridge, but the uniformity of the prevailing alternating hexameter/pentameter lines won out.

The Harvest Moon over Big Bend Ranch State Park in Texas taken at the South Leyva Campsite (Jcllorca, Wikipedia) was combined with a photograph of two coyotes (Matt Knoth).