Saturday, February 15, 2014

Loren Eiseley: In the Tales to Come

In The Tales To Come

"I have met the echo people, coyotes,
once in my youth, deep in a badland canyon, coming
upon them unaware.  They vanished
before I could speak.  Esahcawata, Old-man-coyote's people
quick of foot, hunted by all, surviving
traps and poison bait, surviving
where the great wolves have vanished, admirable
tricksters in an endless war.  I would have spoken
peace, but my kind know it not.  They did well
not to trust me--the trap-shy scurriers at midnight.
Their songs are few now.  They live by the thoughts
of Esahcawata and no other thinking is
                                             possible for them.
Their songs echo the wind.  They are echo people
                                                                      but all
under the sky  are echoers and the millennia listen
                                                        and are silent.
It will be so with us.  I have remembered
all my life how fast they scampered.  We the laughers
do not understand fear because of our numbers
                                                and when we vanish
no one will tell stories about our cleverness, the night wind
will not long echo laughter for Old-man, the trickster
married the whirlwind and myth will have us
as part of the singular spinning of a dust-devil
on a dry prairie.  They are the echoers, we
a jumble  of leaves and dust
quickly gone by.  Lovers of form we will be formless
in the tales to come."

-- Loren Eiseley --
from Another Kind of Autumn

 Eiseley's poem, I think, can be seen as prophetic--a prophecy of the differing fates of the coyote and humanity.  The coyote will be remembered because it is part of the natural world.  In spite of all we can do, the coyote is flourishing, in spite of  "traps and poison bait" or hunters with guns, be they on foot or on horseback or in a helicopter.  According to the Nationale Geographic article,  "These members of the dog family once lived primarily in open prairies and deserts, but now roam the continent's forests and mountains. They have even colonized cities like Los Angeles, and are now found over most of North America. Coyote populations are likely at an all-time high."

Humanity can claim credit for this for it is likely that wiping out large predators, such as the wolf and large cats, allowed the coyote to move into the vacancy thus created.

The poet surmises that in the future the coyote's call will be echoed long after the coyote has disappeared (I suspect that the coyote will outlive humanity if it can avoid being completely exterminated by civilized humans).  On the other hand, humanity is busily working on cutting its link with the natural world (destroying the natural world might be more accurate) and eventually will live in a digital, virtual world, electronic bits of 0s and 1s.   Humanity is like a dust devil which appears suddenly, rushes about with great energy, causing disruption where it goes, and then just as suddenly disappears, leaving no sign of its passing.

"They are the echoers, we
a jumble  of leaves and dust
quickly gone by.  Lovers of form we will be formless
in the tales to come."

No comments:

Post a Comment