In Langscape Magazine Articles

    Freeway Coyote

    August 25, 2016

    by Lee Beavington

    I watch coyote cross the freeway
    trickster weaves amid wheeled gods
    her belly droops with gaunt lactation
    survivor of west coast wild
    abides two-legged rules of concrete     haste
    ceaseless in her search

    The bald eagle roosts in the Hydro tower
    her nest threaded by power line
    feathers that once soared rot in landfill
    beak buried in Big Mac     shreds of styrofoam
    this refuse no match for her regal spirit
    leftovers from her last supper

    A mother wails on highway’s edge
    begs for     a break     in traffic
    her cat lost nine lives in one crossing
    she retrieves the flattened feline
    stretched three times in length
    too slow for the human race

    Fat raccoon bumbles along my fence
    his bloated gut a sign of excess
    nocturnal bandit caught under a full moon
    too civilized to flee from my presence
    too clever to flee from trashcan chatter
    too crafty to flee from     me

    I watch the woman park at the forest entrance
    pull her 4-year-old from the car
    he shivers by her side
    she smokes a long cigarette
    sixty seconds     on Nature’s periphery
    some fix to forget what she has lost

    I circle a deer in the cloverleaf on-ramp
    still in her fear     never stops
    no space between townhouses
    asphalt ebbs into her island of grass
    I honk as if that will save her
    my car’s only choice the freeway

    I ask coyote What do you think of this place?
    her shrewd eyes take me for morsel or menace
    maternity leaves no option
    ceaseless in her search
    no time to answer my urgent question
    she slips between worlds again

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    Salal in Drought

    Salal in Drought. The early autumnal drought starts to erase the interconnected leaf veins. Photo: Lee Beavington, 2015

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    About the Poem

    Driftwood

    Freeway Driftwood. The lines on this driftwood curve away like a freeway to the unknown. Photo: Lee Beavington, 2015

    The ecology of our existence is utterly dependent upon our relationship with the more-than-human world. Our bodies are living and breathing ecosystems, a collective of tens of thousands of interrelated species too easily forgotten in our anthropocentric society. When our bond with the earth is eroded, we lose the ability to hear the ecologies that surround us, we lose a part of ourselves. The voice of nature is heard by those who pay attention to the language of birds, those who hear the cries of clear-cut trees. For these other-than-human words to be wholly received, we must embrace a contemplative receptivity.

    This is where my poem “Freeway Coyote” comes in. As I waited for a bus outside Vancouver, in a rare moment of stillness, I watched a mother coyote slip past me and trot across six lanes of traffic. I realized that her world was like mine: ceaseless movement, surrounded by municipal noise, and in many ways human-centered. Roads, houses, power lines, and parking lots are so predominant as to make human habitat replace all others, leaving nonhuman species little choice of where and how to live.

    The primal voice of the earth is wild in its ancient song, while our urbanization of the world has rendered it mute and tame.

    “Freeway Coyote” is my personal journey in listening for and remembering the last vestiges of urban nature. The coyote who crosses freeways to feed her young, the eagle who feasts on our garbage, the deer swallowed by the language of cars, the raccoon whose behavior has become almost too human. The primal voice of the earth is wild in its ancient song, while our urbanization of the world has rendered it mute and tame. This poem voices the tragedy of nature’s linguistic genocide.

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    To find out more about Lee’s work, visit www.leebeavington.com.

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    Lee Beavington is a biologist and interdisciplinary instructor and has published poetry in Refugium, Sweet Water, Ecopsychology, Enchantments of Place, and Scientists and Poets #Resist. He is co-developing an arts/ecology Fraser River Field School and spearheading KPU Wild Spaces to promote place-based outdoor learning in post-secondary education.