Lori Gravley writes poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. She earned her MFA from
the University of Texas at El Paso (USA). She has published poems in a variety of
journals, recently including I-70 Review, Burningword, and Pittsburgh Poetry Houses.
She travels the world for her work as a USAID training consultant, but her home is in
Yellow Springs, Ohio. You can hear her read her own work and others' and listen to
her interviews with poets at Conrad's Corner on WYSO Public Radio. You can learn
more about Lori at www.lorigravley.com.

In the Absence of Wolves

Coyote spine crawls up my back
into the bones of my neck.
It feel into my hand from the sky,
a falling star plucked by my husband
from a yucca spine. Trickster
has gotten loose in my brain.
He cradles against me spine to spine.
His shadow grows longer
when I wander into dusk.
He runs beside me. We sit for dinner,
rabbit, desert mouse, a steak bone
we dug from my husband's dumpster.
Our spines bend, unbreakable.

I travel each night with my son into the Hundred Acre Woods,
but I can't mellow into something less dangerous.
If my son didn't hold my hand, I'd stalk the small animals,
and lie around for days stuffed with fluff.

I wake to walk the floors at night,
I can't get close enough to creosote.
I can't feel my feet sink in cooling sand.
My husband asks where I've been
when I crawl back into bed.
Coyote sneaks out,
sucks my swollen breasts.
The skin on my belly is pale as coyote's underside
dragging through caliche all day.
My legs are brown as the hackles coyote raises against my back.
We become the ground on which we walk.
I thought coyote had become a part of me,
but night by night I paw the door
inside my locked house and sniff at open windows.
I wonder if I've moved inside of him.

Across the border wolves
still form families in the Chisos and Chiracauas.
Coyote travels hundreds of miles each night.
She forgets her cubs and listens for the cries
of her brothers in the hills.

I turn off the nightlight I leave in the hall for my son.
I move through the dark
out the unlocked doors
into moonlight.
I run until I'm past the permanent green of yards,
the golf course. Zinnias and asters whip at my legs
until I'm free and fall into sand on my hands and knees
searching for coyote. I'll make him whole again—
set him wandering,
searching for things I can't find.

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