In Response to My Children Who Still Ask about the Coyotes

Candice Kelsey

I tell them
the real question is how to tell the neighbors
that we have to move
and won’t be part of their morning routine
their Halloween hellos

Perhaps we should tell them
the same way we were told we have to leave
because the house has been sold
to a developer for millions
we were never able to forget
we are renters
who came home to the notice of pending demolition.

I imagine they’ll scavenge the house:
take the brass ceiling fans
scrape the plaster of Paris
save the bay windows for another project
          walk the length of our gutters with fierce-fang eyes
          imagine the growth of their equity
marked up the side
of a kitchen door jamb with different colored pencils
dollar signs instead of inches –

I imagine them half-howling
under the jacaranda
while we move to a new street that has coyotes
a new neighborhood whose coyotes
are waiting
to feed upon the feline flesh
          the cats we blindly offer our cats
          we have no idea will be food
          we have no way of knowing will soon be rendered
                    hair / whisker / tooth

by the grey tufted struts of coyotes
waiting silent viscounts ruling
this new place
where we hang pictures
activate wifi and reassemble bunk beds
          this yard
          that offers rose globemallow
                    and Thanksgiving cactus
          this yard like a welcome song

while gruesome death is holding a pencil
ready to mark our time
behind the coastal cholla:

I crawl
into one of the coyotes
beneath its sheets of flesh its hungry canvas
and search for our missing cats

I shine
my flashlight cellphone
I Jonah
deeper into its Thai-cave belly pulling out this neighbor
          and that neighbor
          from 3004 Pacific Ave
          and splinters of wood specks of frame and plaster
          from 436 Pier Ave
          and clapboard drawer pulls
          from 6910 84th Place

until I see
the reflection of my city
in the gore-lick of my hands the image of a forgotten saint
this lizard-tile retablo beast
Los Angeles
has swallowed so much of us.

          I wade out wet and worn
to my daughter’s voice – you’re wearing a hood
a red hood!
New blood riding red over the cul-de-sacs
of my neck now that I’ve been born
a coyote’s howl
a birth of dismembered syllables

And that is how I tell my children
                    and the neighbors
          that I have become the cry
          from grandmother’s house
with its wolf-windows so big the better to watch us with
as we try to live
to rent
as long as we can at 5837 W. 74th.

Candice Kelsey teaches writing in Los Angeles. Her poetry appears in Poets Reading the News and Poet Lore among other journals. Her first collection, Still I am Pushing, was released last year. She won the 2019 Two Sisters Writing’s Contest and was recently nominated for both a Best of the Net and a Pushcart. Find her at

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