2022 Poetry Contest Third Place Winner: whisper & smoke by henry 7. reneau jr


whisper & smoke

by henry 7. reneau, jr

after “The Urban Wild Coyote Project” by Mandy-Suzanne Wong


old man coyote   //   demigod/shape- 

shifter   / 

dons a missionary’s collar/   & snakeskin boots//   

cocks his head/   a God engine of whisper 

& smoke   //   a politician’s wink & a grin/   sound

/byte filtered honey/:  incognito amongst 

the People of Hope   


//   coyotes   //   the symbolic chaos of disorder 

in white myths/:  the illegal indigenous 

colonizing their cities/   mercilessly shot/   

& tortuously 

caught in traps/   their progeny/tear-gassed 

inside their dens  


//   but wild things are wild/   not a rib 

to be subserviently yoked/   because the walls 

we build to contain them/    mean nothing 

to them   /& their Other-ness 

is the filth/   that makes them feel   // 


coyotes are entangled/   live under constant 


in many Amerikkkan urban networks/   

where the native tribes who venerated them 

were ousted or exterminated/   

but coyotes survived   (trickster/   finagler/& 

taboo breaker)


/:  in Chicago/   radio-collared coyotes work 

as civil servants/   hunting rodents 

in the city center   /

but gunshot splayed if they overstep their place 


//   their refusal to lie down 

& die/   their adaptability/   tenacity & 


their uncanny staying power 

even as white folks/came a-slaughtering   /& 

Progress swallowed up the land/   the guns & 


& asphalt of Manifest Destiny/   

in the name of ‘sivilized/:  a self-

generating meta-

phor vermin   // 


we are people from shithole countries   /kid-  

napped in tall ships   /Atlantic crossing 

into the Gloaming/   between bated breath 

& the muted silence of dread   //   


now/   we root ourselves 

in tribal birthmarks/   & blooms 

of bruises of old blood/   remake ourselves 

from jaw bones/   gri-gri wishbones/   & 

backwoods ham-

bone Blue(s)   /like blood diamonds  

ground down   /to whispers on the color line   /

the comet in us   /

fur-sleek over sinewy muscle/   our 

multi-Colored chanting Jubilee   //   we 

were told we no longer belonged/   

as our endeavor to persevere/   marched 

on Baltimore/   Ferguson/   & Sanford, Florida/   

seething to the surface irides-

cent in hoodoo magic/   & pixilated 


to replicate ourselves/:  as many 

as They can count   /plus one more/   

like schools of  minnow 

glimmering gunshot celestial neon with galaxies   

/or Mason jar caged 

electrical ball lightning of fettered fireflies /   

phoenix up-

risen/   to roar again/   

singing mighty protest songs   //    


Note: Philadelphia, Denver, Toronto, and the Gotham Coyote Project in New York City boast research organizations devoted to metropolitan coyotes. In Chicago, radio-collared coyotes work as civil servants, hunting rodents in the city center. In Tucson, biologists found that 50% of the city’s human residents enjoy seeing coyotes in their neighborhoods. Up to 85% believe coyotes pose no threat.  


henry 7. reneau, jr. writes words of conflagration to awaken the world ablaze, an inferno of free verse illuminated by his affinity for disobedience—is the spontaneous combustion that blazes from his heart, phoenix-fluxed red & gold, like a discharged bullet that commits a felony every day, exploding through change is gonna come to implement the fire next time. He is the author of the poetry collection, freedomland blues (Transcendent Zero Press) and the e-chapbook, physiography of the fittest (Kind of a Hurricane Press), now available from their respective publishers. Additionally, his collection, A Non-Violent Suicide Poem [or, The Saga of The Exit Wound], was a finalist for the 2022 Digging Press Chapbook Series. His work is published in Superstition Review, TriQuarterly, Prairie Schooner, Zone 3; Poets Reading the News, and Rigorous. His work has also been nominated multiple times for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net.