My.EOU Portal Current Students Faculty/Staff
Heather Cahoon received her MFA in Poetry from the University of Montana where she was the Richard Hugo Memorial Scholar. She won the 2005 Merriam Frontier Award for publication of her chapbook, Elk Thirst, and was awarded a Montana Arts Council Artist Innovation Award in 2015 to support the completion of her book-length manuscript entitled, Horselfy Dress. Her writing has appeared in numerous publications including Hanging Loose, South Dakota Review, New Poets of the American West, and Poems Across the Big Sky: An Anthology of Montana Poets. Heather also holds an interdisciplinary Ph.D in history, anthropology, and Native American Studies. She lives in Missoula, Montana and works as policy analyst, poet and artist. Heather is from the Flathead Indian Reservation in western Montana and is a member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.
COYOTE AND THE CROSS
When the west surged into the center
of the world the word pulled back into heavy
and scarlet patches drawn
across the slight shoulders of certain blackbirds.
But reality rubs raw the wounds of all stories
until the scoured bones of self-evidence
are all that’s left.
Battling inside this orbed shell of space
we find stories are no different
from other living forms
the ragged haired aligned
primal instinct to avoid demise.
Consider Coyote, headbone raised to greet the night
song through black tree moss like witches’ hair.
He delivers a message
bound in the body
of unwritten texts. Like birds, ring-necked
and refined, his cries confirm the un/believable.
I count the breaths between bodies
each syllable thrust from the chest—
from Salish to English, Francis to Clara,
Antoine/Atwén, Malí Sopí, through Sopí,
Pyél back to X̣all̓qs—or Shining Shirt,
the medicine person who saw men in long robes, the sign
of a cross, saw it all
flung into being when,
in slurred double whistles on the midwinter cusp
of forest and field, a black capped chickadee
sang the shadow sounds of his name.
But even before that the forest stood smoldering,
apparitions with arms raised towards the sky.
Transformation always and in everything as in even false hellebore
recognizes the convertibility
of all phenomena, the casting of one thing
into another, as in Spokani became the sun as in Coyote is a man
is an animal is a teacher repeatedly killed and reborn.
He suffers an endless series of deaths, some metaphorical some metaphysical, each one
(Spokani: Son of Amotqn, the Creator
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