King Coyote

Look at this picture of me and King Coyote.
I am not crying; I am fresh from swimming. Don’t we look happy?
Those matching t-shirts are courtesy of the Miami Tourist Board.
If you wish you were there just imagine an ongoing soundtrack
of howling, and the best kept teeth you ever saw, and a pervasive
fear of sharks combined with a love of water, and us beside a campfire
singing Christian music together. If you imagine that, you’re there, I promise.

Bonus marks: can you imagine a wolf playing an electric guitar?
Crooning like a dog into a microphone stand which stands
in the woodland, dappled by the leaf-light and covered
in glib webs and creeping weeds? Yellowstone
is a nice place for a retreat. Where does a giant old
monster go when he needs songs? Where is the nearest
record store? Coyotes love vinyl; they love eulogies too, as you know.

King Coyote was voted in as part of an elective monarchy.
A strange system with a strange tradition;
a whole forest of monkeys waltz out from the treeline
to chatter and squark and, after much deliberation,
pick the coyote who they love the most; the one who
plays the best tunes, and whose tongue is quickest,
and whose legs are the most supple, hairless, quick.

Soon after, King Coyote travels first class on an airline sponsored
by the oil industry. He thinks he’ll take this winter out.
The land gives way to beaches and water; and not
very long later a large and hairy man can be seen
strutting on the beach, drinking from a coconut,
Hawaiian shirt flapping weakly against huge muscles,
brushing idly legs which curve and bounce in the sand.

All hail King Coyote! I didn’t know he was a noble man.
There is talk of a monkey conspiracy; unsubstantiated.
Everyone agrees he is the coyote for the job. But while he’s away
(in a paradise lost)
talk is brewing, and no one knows what it means to quell.
Quell what? Life is nasty, brutal, and short. If he’s got to go
then he’s got to go, bankrupt or not, whatever the price, whatever the cost.

King Coyote disembarks the plane and gives out generous tips,
distributes his travel pillow to a frail old dear in a purple old coat.
Back in the forest, a natural hunter, his hair stands on end –
those tight legs unfurl and hit the ground running. His crown
is still on his head, a noble sight, just as planned. Anything for
a slow, memorable death. The only eternal thing is a sharp and sudden pain.
A pack closes in, backed by monkey chatter. Curious eyes look out on this lone figure.

Our hero waits a moment, yelps, lays down. The first traitor
loses his balls and his jaw with one fast paw; the second just the same.
Then all at once, again and again. King Coyote lives forever. King Coyote
is a real beast and no mistake. I watch from the nearby trees and weakly weep.
King Coyote goes down slowly and only thanks to gravity. Yellowstone
echoes with the howls of a thousand old, old men. The monkeys dance a newer,
sadder tune. A corpse stretches out towards the moon. Music plays.

King Coyote was my friend, and I keep wishing he’d come back again.
The monkeys have abolished the monarchy. It isn’t funny – their new
policies on taxation are causing outrage. But rebellion is not allowed.
Monkeys know what quell means, and they know you only put a crown
on a head you want to lose. They always knew that.
So did King Coyote.
But he was brave.

Beneath a sun-lounger I waste time scanning the water
remembering when we howled good Christian music together,
and seeking vainly an outline against the moon –
hoping against hope to see once more
his willowy figure strutting out to sea alone.
All hail King Coyote, the king of the parks, the land, and the water.
A brilliant king, an even better boxer.
My brilliant friend, my even better lover.
All hail King Coyote. I wish we had built that home together.

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