I woke just before 2 a.m., wondering about Ukraine. Wondering. Rather than going downstairs in the dark to sit in front of this screen, doom-scrolling, I listened. And what was that? A single coyote, quite near. We didn’t hear the courtship this year, which made me wonder. Maybe the pair we hear most years has become too old to mate. Maybe the young have gone elsewhere. Maybe they’re wondering, What’s the point, with some development happening over on Sakinaw Lake Road, encroaching on the woods there that become our woods a little further north, with the noise of the excavators clearing and preparing ground for a huge telecommunications tower at the gateway to Ruby Lake, courtesy of the resort owners (they call themselves dedicated environmentalists). Why should we breed. So a single coyote singing a brief and beautiful song—a keening howl followed by a series of yips. Coyote, said John, sleepily, and Yes, I hear it, I replied. Maybe on the bluff beyond the old swing set? The cat leapt up from sleep, trembling. Beyond the window, trees outlined by a little moonlight.
The most difficult, of course, is
to talk to
the trees —
it’s like you don’t owe them anything
but here you stand in front of the pines,
averting your eyes.
This morning, news of continued invasion. So I turn to poetry. W.H. Auden famously said that, “poetry makes nothing happen: it survives/In the valley of its making.” It’s an account, though, an act of witness, and I turn to it over and over. Like coyote song, it arrives in the night, it makes its music, it settles in my mind and blood, and I hear it as I go through my days, look for it for its dark messages.
Let’s start by whispering the names,
let’s weave together the vocabulary of death.
To stand and talk about the night.
Stand and listen to the voices
of shepherds in the fog
incanting over every single
The passages of poetry are from Serhiy Zhadan’s A New Orthography, translated by John Hennessy and Ostap Kin.