The View From My Window While Attending A Conference

I think a homeless person lives behind my dorm.
From my window I see colored objects
I can’t quite make out. Maybe a lean-to,
a campsite. Too far to tell.
Do the trees grow eyes after dark?

I amend my theory. The objects never move.
Perhaps a place of remembrance
for one who died beneath that Piñon pine?
I don’t like being so close to death when I sleep.

At night I hear coyote pups yipping.
I picture them leaping and dancing
beneath the tree in unfettered coyote ecstasies.

I have a nightmare.
Wild dogs are trying to tear me apart.
Do coyotes know how to send dreams?

I search for the tree and its objects.
A strange assemblage is found –
half a red lacquered guitar, minus
strings and fretboard, antler
protruding from its shorn side, another
on the ground. Dried seed pods. Pieces
of broken blue ceramic. A bird’s nest
of twigs and thistledown
inside a green gazing ball.

What peculiar god answers
to this shrine? This I don’t know,
but we try to make them anyway—
controlled by bone and branch
and bits of glass. We build our altars
and pray to our carefully curated
deities, bring our offerings of things
we won’t miss, avoid the sacrifice.

I pack all my things back in a suitcase.
Curious objects of my ordinary
life gleaned along the way.
At home, I will arrange them again
beneath the dogwood tree.
We take our altars everywhere.

 by Nadine Ellsworth-Moran