“THERE’S NO THROUGH TRAIL” —HAN-SHAN, TRANSLATED BY GARY SNYDER
/ Coyotes

Coyotes

by Peter Sagnella

For Christos Georgiou

In the dark long ago I heard the howl.
Upridge, whorls of sound above

Mad Mare Hill. Like nostrils sniffing
an unwanted scent I could turn then

from that contour of night, let ear
and eye shape a day’s bright chant.

Then in brilliant sunset gleam I saw
one trot across a field, teeth clenched,

jaw firm, locked like a sentinel
spotlighting the pitch-black for an uprising.

Dead, the rabbit knew nothing
of the power in that jaw. Or perhaps,

in its way, in its final frantic fury,
it knew all.

To rise up. Once
you told us the story: how they shot

any villager who tried to feed a family
on greens picked in the field of Papoulia.

From the bough of one tree they hung
the bodies, then dumped them in holes

of hot, parched earth. At night, you said,
keen to the scent, a pack came to feed.

It tore, ripped corpses from the dirt.
By morning half-gnawed, tissue-flecked

bones had surfaced like snapped riggings
of sunk ships. And whenever you inhaled

the sweet leaf of that tree, you could not
keep its stench out of your throat.

About Peter Sagnella

Peter Sagnella lives in North Haven, Connecticut, where he has taught Composition, Poetry, and Environmental Literature for eighteen years. His work has appeared in many journals, most recently BorderlandsNew Haven ReviewKestrelSLANT, and The Comstock Review. He was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2015, and was Edwin Way Teale Writer-in-Residence at Trail Wood in 2017.

Cold Mountain Review is published once a year in the Department of English at Appalachian State University. Support from Appalachian’s Office of Academic Affairs and College of Arts and Sciences enables CMR’s learning and publications program. The views and opinions expressed in CMR do not necessarily reflect those of university trustees, administration, faculty, students, or staff.