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The Second Coyote (for Joseph Beuys)
Gary Lemons

In the glass room a cloaked figure
Holds a shepherd's crook and walks slowly
Through the scattered bales of hay.
In one corner a desert coyote
Licks itself and sniffs the air.

On the other side of the glass
Art critics applaud the coyote's
Spontaneous, one might say,
Natural way of relieving itself.

The cloaked figure describes
The atrocities of Auschwitz, the
Barbarities of Custer, cluster
Bombs, blowguns and burning
Jelly in a whisper
To the attentive animal.

Coyote loves to hear its escapades
Retold by those who don't
Understand the world as it is—
The moon in winter, the shrinking
Of everything into a patch of early light
Within which a small cub bleeds.

Learning the meaning of a single
Human word can turn an animal
To stone as quickly as a gorgon's glance—
Witness the stolen creature posing as your dog...

The cloaked figure continues telling
A wild animal, a child in perfect harmony
With all extremes, of the sadness
Of a people who invented anger,
Who can't understand why
It is necessary, even admirable, to
Chew a leg off to be free.

The hooded figure drones on about
The human burden, the wars,
The broken hearts, the nurseries
Emptied with swords, the heavy, singing
Chortle of too many ghosts flying
From too many holes in the ground.

The spectators grow serious, consider
Their fragility, the great orations
Of the action artist who places their
Inheritance in the air the way a falconer
Lets fly a young bird from the wrist.

They applaud the moment from behind
Their one-way glass, going away
In small buzzing groups, less fearful,
Grateful to have witnessed the absolution
Of their next crime by one of their own.

When they are gone, when the lights
Are turned off, the hooded figure
Sits down in the hay, takes off its mask,
And the two coyotes howl at their joke.