Why Do Coyotes Howl at Night?

by Colen Sweeten

read poem
Why Do Coyotes Howl at Night?

Why do coyotes howl at night?
I used to ponder on that question.
Then I talked it over with a cowboy
Who offered a suggestion.

So I went at sundown to the foothills
Where coyotes are known to roam.
And I spread my bed on the watershed
Next door to the coyote’s home.

A heavy quiet ruled the night.
I soon felt small and strange.
The silence almost smothered me
Out there on the open range.

The new moon didn’t linger.
It was so cold and pale.
It looked like a tiny crescent
Cut from someone’s fingernail.

The stars were oh, so far away.
I watched the dipper turn around.
It poured a cup of loneliness
That covered all the ground.

Dawn was still a sliver of light
And the day had just begun;
Came the coyote’s call from the canyon wall
My adrenaline started to run.

It’s hard to explain why coyotes howl
From the rim-rock, high on a shelf.
But I know, once long ago
I felt like that myself.

© Colen H. Sweeten, Jr.

COLEN H. SWEETEN JR. was raised on a ranch in southern Idaho and spent his later years in Springville, Utah. Known as “Western America’s Will Rogers,” Sweeten was a noted and respected cowboy poet who published many articles and poems in various magazines and performed at cowboy gatherings as well as on radio and television—he was featured on “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson”. Sweeten received several awards and commendations for his work, including the Idaho Governor’s Millennial Award for Excellence in the Arts. He died in 2007.


National Endowment for the Arts
Nevada Arts Council
NV Energy Foundation