Trudy Lewis

Mother of Animals

Breathe, Listen, Breathe, See. The flute player has arrived with his humped back and pack of seeds, his locust head and his wild and civilizing tune. He has come to tell of great migrations, peoples moving in all directions, bloody religions rising from the south, cliff dwellings of a hundred rooms, cities spawning cities and crude boxlike churches, war and human sacrifice, kachina clowns and parrots, languages parting and receiving one another, warriors taking heads and maidenheads, maize and squash exchanged for skins and feathers, councils formed and dissolved, messengers sent and executed, the dying suspended and the unborn emerging. And in his travels, he has heard tell of two brothers, the older named Coyote and the younger named Rabbit. Coyote was the fiercest hunter, and could pierce the heart-line of a large elk with the first arrow in his pack. Rabbit was the fastest runner, a great wanderer, and knew where to find the choicest squash and beans.

Now, in these times, the older men of the tribe had hoarded all the women to themselves, and left the young men no proper occupations but hunting and war making. Seeing that they were lacking female age-mates, the brothers determined to strap on their sandals and go out in search of wives on their own. The prints they made in the desert sand resembled the mark of the vulva, and when Coyote looked behind him, he saw only the clefts of the many women he would like to occupy. But he feared that his brother, being the faster, would surely reach them first.

Rabbit, too, knowing the wiles of his brother Coyote, suspected a trick of some kind. He looked at the curves of his double water gourd and saw a bountiful female form, then watched horrified as the receptive female entwined in coitus with brother’s strong and hairy torso.

And so the brothers walked on, each absorbed in his thoughts, each secretly fearing the other.

That night, when the moon rose, Coyote dreamed that he glimpsed the white head of the Mother of Animals. Breathe. Listen. Breathe. See. She stood in a wide canyon with the elk gathered all around her, mountain sheep grazing at her feet. Now, Coyote believed that he enjoyed the Mother’s special favors because she had always brought him first place in the hunt. “Mother,” he said, handing her his bow. “I am in need of a mate, but I travel with my brother, who is much quicker than I, and will surely reach any receptive female before I have a chance to make my case. What must I do to outmaneuver him?” And the Mother of Animals blessed his bow for him and pressed her cool lips to his forehead before whispering gently into his ear.

As the moon drew forward in her course, and the stars appeared in the sky, Rabbit felt his legs twitching in sleep, and in his dream he ran to a great river where he saw the Mother of Animals catching fish in her supple hands and grinding out corn upon a rock. Now, Rabbit believed he was especially loved by the Mother, for she had always delivered him from danger and directed his steps to wild and secret sources of nourishment in the earth. Breathe. Listen. Breathe See. “Mother, he said. My brother is much cleverer than I; he is merciless in his pursuits, and careless with his friends. We travel together in search of wives, but I fear that he will take any women in our path, just as he has always taken any deer that dare to come in view of his bow. What should I do to secure a woman against his wiles?” And the Mother served Rabbit grain and fish and massaged his tired legs as she explained what he must do.

In the morning, the brothers awoke refreshed, ate from the maize and beans in their pack, and drank together from the same gourd.

When they came to a canyon, Coyote told Rabbit that he would go off hunting, and that he would shoot an elk whose flesh would serve as meat for their journey, whose horns would adorn their heads in celebration, and whose skin would be sewn by loving fingers into their marriage robes.

Rabbit agreed to the plan, but secretly followed behind to observe what mischief Coyote would accomplish.

When Coyote came to a reclining rock, he threw his blanket over it to suggest a womanly form. He emptied out his water gourd into the sand, then refilled it with the red ants he had collected for his purpose. Lifting the blanket again, he hid the gourd in the appropriate spot and began to laugh. When Rabbit raced to the figure and engaged it in quick and furious copulation, he would become stuck, and would find himself incapable of racing to the true prey. Even if he did manage to free himself, he would hardly be inclined to attempt intercourse after his bitter encounter with the Ant brothers.

Rabbit, seeing the trap prepared for him, set off in the opposite direction. He ran through the canyon, past an arroyo, and into an odd enclosure in the rocks. There, a shape appeared before him. Breathe. Listen. Breathe. See. It was unlike anything he had imagined, the breasts blooming forth in large squash blossoms, the hair bright as the pelt of a mountain lion, the brown eyes shining like uncooked beans. This was a woman indeed. He set off running toward her with all his strength and she gave chase, back across the desert.

Now, Coyote, true to his word, had gone out with his newly blessed bow to shoot an elk for his marriage ceremony. However, he did not truly anticipate sharing his good fortune with his brother Rabbit, but imagined a feast of delights for himself alone. Soon Coyote became disappointed in the hunt. The area seemed particularly barren, and he found no tracks that he could recognize. The sun climbed higher, and he regretted that he had left his water gourd behind him. He circled back, but could not locate any of the landmarks he had noted earlier in the day. The red rocks, the clumps of yucca, and the a few sparse patches of yellow grass, all seemed to repeat themselves without order or logic. He began to track phosphenes before his eyes, elk and deer appeared where there were none, and his breath quickened until he was panting like a winded beast. When Coyote was just about to lose hope, a cloud passed over the sun, cooling his brow, and he thought of the Mother of Animals and her kiss upon his forehead. He remembered the favor he enjoyed. Before him, a shape lay rolled in a blanket, as if to protect herself from the heat of the day. Her rounded hips seemed to vibrate under the vibrant patterns in the cloth. He knelt beside the figure, and without lifting the blanket from her face, lay down and eased his large enraptured member into her waiting cleft. Immediately Coyote let out a shout that echoed and ricocheted through the canyon. This was the tightest, and most relentless female opening he had ever encountered. Oh, what good was it to be blessed with a rare and lengthy arrow if it only meant a longer shaft of pain?

But such was Coyote’s lust that he could not shrink himself, despite the great agony that passed like lightening up and down the length of his impressive member.

And so he struggled on until he had released his seed. Before he could look down and examine the damage, he saw a cloud of dust moving across the desert. In his distress, he could not identify it as deer or sheep, mountain lion or elk. But his instincts were so sharp and his aim was so true that he lifted his bow and shot without properly sighting the creature. Breathe. Listen. Breathe. See. The arrow sang straight to its mark and the heart-line of the unidentified beast went slack as it uttered its death cry.

Now, even as Coyote had been copulating with his wife, Rabbit had been in pursuit of his own. He chased the elusive female out of the enclosure, over the arroyo, and through the canyon, back to the place from which he had come. Just beyond the last bluff, he overtook her, found her receptive, and pressed his muscular haunches into her rounded thighs. There, he felt the sweetness of life spilling out of him and bleeding into the earth’s every fissure. Oh, what was the use of such a swift and certain arrow if it must continually be withdrawn from the site of its joy?

As he emptied his spirit into the woman, he caught sight of his brother over her shoulder, tore his flesh from the female’s, and began to run toward Coyote in order to prevent him from stealing what had so recently become Rabbit’s own. In his flight, he felt the arrow unite with his breast and saw the power lines appear before him, leading him back to his ancestors in the earth.

Coyote, seeing his brother fall, looked upon his body and wept. He gathered the frightened female to him and took her for his wife. But each time he entered her, he felt the sting of red ants and remembered the death of his brother. Soon, the wife became pregnant, and complained of the active babe thumping his restless legs against her belly. And when she came to give birth, Coyote saw that it was as if his brother had re-emerged from the very bowl of being. He named his child Rabbit and loved him with tenderness and fear. And so Coyote lived into old age with this woman, fathering many other children, tricking and begin tricked, but never forgetting how the Mother of Animals had turned her face from him that day.

As for the Mother, she kept her promise to both Rabbit and Coyote. For each one defeated his brother, and each brother won himself a wife. And so the Mother of Animals contrives to keep faith with us all. Breathe. Listen. Breathe. See. Or so the flute player tells us, as he wanders about so carelessly scattering his song.