The primal sound of coyotes in the desert hearkens back to a primeval time long ago. Feelings of respect and awe for an ancient time, combined with a suspicion of modernity, are drawn out by Steven L. Peck in his poem, The Slaying of the Trickster God. He accomplishes this by using form (the poem is divided into 3 segments-), contrast, and imagery to draw out feelings of respect for these primal creatures.
In the prologue of the poem, vivid descriptions of celestial bodies-such as the sun, moon, stars, and universe-are used to introduce a feeling of eternity and scope. This is a common theme in LDS theology, and is an underlying current in this work. The ancient world of the “Trickster Gods”, or coyotes, is portrayed as being encroached upon in the first section of the poem:
“The other (universe) however folds in on itself, slowly, a topological twisting, until it engulfs itself and is gone…the intrusion. The invasion. But who’s to blame?”
Peck’s use of alliteration helps illustrate the imposition of the reader, and all of humanity, on this ancient world.
The following sections contrast two separate encounters of coyotes with vehicles, with the end result the same in each-a predictably mangled coyote. In both situations it is clear that the people involved would clearly willingly have killed the coyote. However, the tone of the poem conveys that the people in the first incident had a respect for the coyote, while those in the second didn’t.
The first incident includes vivid imagery of the landscape that is home to the coyote, and the final killing of the coyote is merciful, as it had merely been injured by the car. This is in clear contrast to the second, irreverent killing, in which a large truck intentionally squelches the creature’s life. After crushing the coyote, the occupants, John and Mark, celebrated rambunctiously. Lest the allusion to the New Testament go unnoticed, Peck quips that the John and Mark in the story were “authors of no gospel.”
Reading this poem brought me in my minds eye to the desert on a clear summer night, cool with the warm sand, and the Milky Way glistening in the dark sky. It created a solemn, reverent mood for me, and a frustration with our society’s focus on lights and the big city.