Published on Academy of American Poets (


She is a wood warbler
            into madness.          She
from milky shell   earthen brown blotches
not Rorschach   not robin   but warbler.

Open-mouthed                   swallow of hard-
chipped notes, calls            smothered
            her smoke-gray chamber of throat.

Dis/appearing between branches          
muted yellow-green
            tail feathers and body dainty   clawed toes
white lines half-circle            her eyes
sense but can’t see
at the center of night     movements        
misreads the body
                                                responds on its own.


Copyright © 2019 by Heather Cahoon. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 5, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“This poem describes the body's response to trauma, which is one of many related themes explored in more detail in my forthcoming collection of poems Horsefly Dress, named for the only daughter of Coyote, an important figure in my tribe’s oral traditions. The poems—including 'Łčíčšeʔ,' which means older sister—deal with issues stemming from Coyote’s transformation of the world and his decision to leave present certain ‘evils’ including cruelty, greed, hunger, death, etc. In more specific terms, these topics are explored through first-person experiences and the experiences of my family and larger tribal community.”
Heather Cahoon


Heather Cahoon

Heather Cahoon is the author of Horsefly Dress (University of Arizona Press, 2020). She is an Assistant Professor of Native American Studies at the University of Montana and lives in Missoula.

Date Published: 2019-11-05

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