Nebraska Center for Writers

by MK Stillwell

A coyote wakes me —
a hoot, a howl in early morning
snow light —
from the next room
where our son, the Colombian hooter
begins his ascent,
rising from the night
toward warm soy
that he will guzzle
then fall back
into sleep again.

We must all wake to coyotes
every now and then,
listen to their singular song,
their collective chorus,
in early morning snow light.
What will we do when the hunter
cuts the last song short?

This day is coming,
and we make plans
to move to coyote country,
post No Hunting signs,
to tuck our son into bed
certain that some morning
he will wake to their hoot,
their howl, the first song
of distance
in early snow light.

Reprinted with permission
from Leaning into the Wind
Copyright © 1997
by MK Stillwell

by MK Stillwell

As I sat on the toilet
of a Boeing 727,
somewhere over Ohio
riding United tourist,
I imagined my last moments
of life
falling bare-assed through the sky,
trying to reach down
to pull up my pants,
then, tumbling,
trying to reach up
to pull my pants down,
so I would land
respectably dressed.

Reprinted with permission
from The Paris Review
Copyright © 1997
by MK Stillwell

by MK Stillwell

They, these gray and nameless trees,
stand, hair tossed over their heads
as though caught rinsing it.

I turn to the cherry trees,
raise their white and pink petals,
soft against the hand, but I am back
with the three sisters.
They follow me everywhere —
out of the garden,
down the street,
slide between the sheets,
grow across this page.

Oh these springs are too cold,
too short for us.
No wonder we weep so quickly,
so silently, go about bare
and barren, waiting, preparing
for the first green of summer.

Reprinted with permission
from The Massachusetts Review
Copyright © 1996
by MK Stillwell


"She (the earth) is...the only mother we have."
from a song of the Kayaba,Colombia

"I could only believe in a god who dances."

It is just evening of a hot summer day.
On the north lawn, enclosed by spirea bushes,
a young girl leaps, hurls herself,
into the cold water. Sharp drops cut the face,
slash the arms, pierce the back.
She leaps out. Haauusssh sounds the water
as it's forced through the garden hose,
thu, thu, thu sounds the pivot
as it lays an arc upon the grass.
In again, and out. Day recedes.
Cars along the street drive into oblivia.
Under her feet, blades soften.
She shivers. In and out. In and out again.
Light falls from the western sky.
In she spins, and warms.
The only sounds are the thu, thu, thu
of her heart, haauusssh of her blood.
Feet find holds in air. Hair climbs the neck.
Her arms, first one and then the other,
reach above her head; she grabs for stars.
This night, this water, these sounds tell
the girl how the great mother danced her children
into being. Grass, skin, hair, and stars tell her all
she will ever need to know in order to live.

Reprinted with permission
Copyright © 1998
by MK Stillwell

by MK Stillwell

The great circle dance at the September PowWow
is about to begin but
this family has lost a child
over the summer and the grief must be combed
from their hair before they can enter
the circle. The mother walks the grasses
to the west side of the circle. The father
walks the grasses, then the other children,
then the aunts and uncles of this family
who has lost one of its children to accident
over the summer. They stand just outside
the circle, and the old people come with

finger combs and begin running them through
the hair of the family, combing the grief
from the mother, the father, each sister and brother,
aunts and uncles, combing out the grief
like snarls, casting out grief
in tangles. On the north side of the circle,
my scalp tingles. It is grief caught
in my own hair, and I must comb it out
if I am to join the circle. I, too, use my fingers
as a comb, pushing the hair up from the head
and away so the grief can loosen.
This combing takes some time,

and the family begins to cry and the old people,
too, begin to cry, and I on my side of the circle
begin to cry. Tears and grief spill
over my shoulders and run down my legs.
Tears and grief spill over their shoulders
and run down their legs.
The earth receives it as rain, takes it in
as if it were her own because it is her own.
From it she has already begun to fashion
new children to send to us. We
bow to the wisdom of the old people,
enter the circle that we may dance.

Reprinted with permission
from Literal Latte
Copyright © 1998
by MK Stillwell

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