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
About the Poem
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.
To find out more about Lee’s work, visit www.leebeavington.com.
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. Read more from Lee Beavington.