Coyote Brush

From my home, looking uphill

at the shadowed green for years

I had no name

for this gray-green matte.

When I heard “coyote brush”

spoken, seen it written, low letters,

thick like this tangled-branched, oval-leaved

thing, I thought it a fitting name,

making a place for coyotes,

rough-cut dogs, matted,

low to the ground, hiding

in the mottled darkness.


Then yesterday, on San Bruno Mountain,

my student taught me the Ohlone myth

that where coyotes peed,

from that muck sprouted the first

gnarled green shoots of the eponymous plant,

smelling of coyote pee

to scare off hungry deer,

hungry enough to try to eat these lizard leaves,

dry, seedy, bitter.


Tonight I might try that trick,

see what grows when I take a leak,

give to the baked clay

around my house what moisture

I took from it, see what spawns

from my dragon’s teeth,

what hydra-headed plant,

nettles spouting hypos,

hemlock numbing seeds,

milkweed feeding caterpillars,

what beautiful death will arise

from my leavings?


by Paul Totah

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