Coyote Takes a Flying Leap

Introductory Note: For those not familiar with mythology, Coyote is a prominent figure representing the Trickster Spirit. Coyote is a favourite spirit animal of many First Nations, particularly those of the plains and the West Kootenay nation the Sinixt, who have their own founding legends about him. Coyote is also a shapeshifter, so that he may carry out his mischief in different guises. It struck me that Peter Roulston, who spent so much of his time in the outdoors, and whose personality seemed to be different things to different people, fit this spirit animal perfectly. Please remember: these are metaphors not meant to be taken literally. The intent is to surround a tragic passing with some honourable remembrance.

Coyote is a prominent spirit animal in many First Nations mythologies, a powerful trickster figure. Courtesy Alberta Environment

Coyote Takes a Flying Leap

—for Peter Roulston


You were seldom seen

on this meandering scar of highway

except in pickup truck loaded

with kayak and overnight gear,

a salt-and-pepper flash

at the roadside—reminder

that far more than just wind

moves beneath hemlock and fir.

You caught scent of trails

older than man, subtle as moss—

water spirals from a paddle blade.


Some knew you as kind,

the potlatch chief doling out squash

and quaint homilies,

your chicken-stealing grin

almost boyish. You slipped

like morning from the women

who loved you, reduced now

to the fictions of sleep.


Others knew only your bite,

turned too late to see you

slip from rainforest murk

and leave the imprint of your teeth

on the editorial page, breathing smoke

on wasps for sheer fun,

controversial and

hard to pin down as dew.


But finally your shadow

outran you, dragging you in its wake—

cedar-saturated and heavy

as a mountain. Shapeshifter,

pay attention to your magic—

your sleight-of-hand

conjures osprey in unwary minds

but will not carry you

from this cliff a thousand feet

above Slocan Lake


©2014 Sean Arthur Joyce


About seanarthurjoyce

I am a poet, journalist and author with a strong commitment to the environment and social justice. If anything, I have too many interests and too little time in a day to pursue them all. Film, poetry, literature, music, mythology, and history probably top the list. My musical interests lie firmly in rock and blues with a smattering of folk and world music. I consider myself lucky to have lived during the great flowering of modern rock music during its Golden Age in the late 1960s/early '70s. In poetry my major inspirations are Dylan Thomas, Rilke, Neruda and the early 20th century British/American poets: Auden, Eliot, Cummings. My preferred cinema includes the great French auteurs, Kirosawa, Orson Welles, and Film Noir. My preferred social causes are too numerous to mention but include banning GMOs, eliminating poverty (ha-ha), and a sane approach to forest conservation and resource extraction. Wish me—wish us all—luck on that one!
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5 Responses to Coyote Takes a Flying Leap

  1. Thi is brilliant. Thank you. I knew Peter well in his early days in Crescent Bay near Nakusp. Will blog my memories of him one of these days. He always lived life on his own terms.

  2. Rod Farnsworth says:

    Just wonderful Art. If you are back by Thursday I, for one, would like you to read your poem at Peter’s memorial. Thursday 23rd Oct at 5:00pm at the Bosun Hall.
    Rod F.

  3. Kathleen Roulston says:

    What a lovely and moving poem! We were so sorry not to meet you at the memorial and hear you read it. We will pass it on to family and friends here in the east. With thanks, Kathy Roulston (Peter’s sister) & John Snyder (brother-in-law)

  4. monty says:

    we knew peter as well, in his Nakusp days, as the Bike Doctor. never knew anyone as finicky about bikes as him. Spent time with him and Gerhard at St Leon Hot Springs. Good times man. haven’t spoken to him in many years, but remembered him fondly. Blessings to all.

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