TEETH IN THE WRONG PLACES
Coyote was ripe for adventure and wanted to visit the evil old woman
he’d been warned about; she lived with her two wicked daughters and
those who had slept with the handsome girls were never seen again.
--A Ponca-Otoe story told anonymously
and recorded by Richard Erdoes
Coyote’s just like any man,
hungry for the dark loaves
of a woman’s thighs.
You peel the skin of the tongue;
they complain it’s burnt, add Tabasco.
You boil the last of the turnips;
they whine, it goes down like gall stones.
Beauty’s just a bite
away from want.
I’ve seen fox chew
off her own limb
for just one more taste
of freedom. Mother set
the trap lines near beavers’
dens— hauled in more
than she could skin.
They moved farther
upriver next spring.
What West wind blew
those men into our house?
Who ransacked the curio
shelf, the burlap quilt and button jar?
Whose boots are these tracking
swamp-rot through the kitchen?
Where’s yesterday’s bread
and which dolt didn’t cover the butter?
Tomorrow, I’m fixing to kill
the angel of this house.
These men that come through here—
shooting lead slugs through my green
bottles; water logging a season of straw;
taking liberties with my good hen.
Remember that one, those moons back,
stepped out the beets like a jack-rabbit,
and ornery as a circle saw; that other, eyes
a sweet blue, but disposition salty as piss
and vinegar in the noon-day sun.
I say, Coyote’s same as any man.
desire’s fixed to cut a tooth.
I’m set to start grinding.
If he’s still here come morning,
lay out the linen and splash
on the toilet water; put the beans
on to soak, and bring up the choke-
cherries. Lend your voice
to some pretty hymn, occupy his ears
so he’s not to hear that clackety-clack
racket; that awful gnashing of teeth
going on down there; should he ask,
say how bitter an Autumn we’ve had,
wouldn’t he like to keep you warm?
Then fasten your eye to his fly,
give his nether-regions a good scratch,
fall open to the place where the moon rides up—
North of the trap line, in a thicket of hairy frost.
desire’s fixed to cut a tooth.
get set to start grinding.
Tiffany Midge is an enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux and grew up in the Pacific Northwest. She is the recipient of the Diane Decorah Poetry Award from The Native Writers Circle of the Americas for Outlaws, Renegades and Saints: Diary of a Mixed-Up Halfbreed published by Greenfield Review Press. Animal Legend and Lore: Buffalo is her first children’s book, published by Scholastic. Publication credits include, Growing up Ethnic in America, Viking/Penguin; Identity Lessons: Contemporary Writing About Learning to be American, Viking/Penguin; Reinventing the Enemy’s Language,” W.W. Norton; Blue Dawn, Red Earth; New Native American Storytellers, Anchor Books. More recently her stories have appeared in a middle school textbook, Multicultural Reader, Many Voices Series by Perfection Learning. Her poetry has been commissioned into a choral ensemble by composer Seppo Pohjola of Finland, and has been adapted into the dramatic work, Cedars, produced by Red Eagle Soaring Native American Theater, of which she serves on the advisory board.