Shenandoah Volume 68, Number 1
Volume 68, Number 1 · Fall 2018

Eventide Interrupted by Phlebotomy & a Coyote’s Howl

My mother taught me to walk

with my arms bent forward

so I am always reaching into the future

& ready to carry anyone who can’t

make the journey alone. One night, a coyote

broke into our backyard & slaughtered

both our rabbits. The youngest one survived

till morning, long enough to die cradled

in my mother’s arms. A kinder world

to exit than jaws of unrelenting hunger.

My mother just kept shouting we can’t lose both,

we can’t lose both of them. The grief

in her voice, a child frantically collecting

fur hoping to piece the animal back together.

My mother can keep anyone from falling apart

except herself. My whole life I’ve watched her leave

in pieces: doctors examine tubes of plasma

before removing ligaments, bone. Iron

is pumped from her blood, small caravans

of hemoglobin. One day, I’ll wake up

& she’ll be missing. Don’t worry: I’ll find her

sitting at the bottom of the stairs,

an impossible mountain. I’ll remember my lessons,

how to walk, lift, carry. All I’ve ever wanted

is to live long enough to help my mother rest,

to give her hilltop & hallelujah. Sweet hallowed earth

where she can sleep unencumbered by the bodies

she can no longer hold close. Though I fear

she will still be haunted by coyotes howling

in the distance, her joints gnawing

for escape. Even now, her bones whittle down

to lit candlewicks. Even now, she continues

to peel flame from her nightgown & place it softly

back in the hearth. When it finally comes time

for her to leave, will her grief be a garden

or garment she can’t unwear? What light

will she head toward? It’s strange,

no matter how I write it, the story

always ends the same:

warm mountain air, a mother

sitting by moonlight

as a single rabbit grazes in the meadow.

Brandon Melendez is a Mexican-American poet from California. He is the author of Gold That Frames The Mirror (Write Bloody, 2019), a National Poetry Slam finalist, and best poem winner at the College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational (CUPSI). A recipient of the the 2018 Djanikian Scholarship from the Adroit Journal and the 2018 Academy of American Poets Award, his poems can be found in Black Warrior Review, the Journal, Muzzle Magazine, Ninth Letter, PANK, and elsewhere.