Old man, in your loose shirt,
with your hooded gaze that says,
Look elsewhere, I see you.
Or do I? Grasping your cane,
clear eyes, white, fuzzy hair, there—
but your edges blur, almost disappear.
On a desert road, I met a coyote,
fur like a beaten rug, the color of drought.
He never slowed and with a cold eye
stared me down, daring me to watch him
lope past. I looked away, walked fast.
You’ve got his look, his camouflage coat.
It’s your legs bringing you in:
you have to throw a leg out sideways
from the hip to take each step. How long
has this been going on? Below the knees
you’re numb, your heart is racing, ribs
stick out like chicken wings. The more
I ask, the more you look away. You’ve got
a daughter in the city, once in a while
she calls. You’re fine alone, have been
for thirty years. Drink? Brandy, to sleep.
You spread your fingers, showing me
the depth of a good swig. In your eyes,
something reminds me of my father,
how he’d fend off questions,
would never let me in. You’re sicker
than you know. I tick off blood tests,
talking past you to the nurse who’ll call you,
maybe get you to come back. But I can feel
you weighing whether coming here
was such a clever move. Better to turn off
into the thorny scrub, blend in, pretend
you never saw me. This road might
lead to the rancher with the shotgun,
not down to the stream under the sycamores.