Words And Places native literature from the american southwest

Running on the Edge of the Rainbow: Laguna Stories and Poems
Leslie Marmon Silko


Toe'osh; A Laguna Coyote Story for Simon Ortiz


In the wintertime
at night
we tell coyote stories
          and drink Spanada by the stove.
How coyote got his
ratty old fur coat
          bits of old fur
          the sparrows stuck on him
          with dabs of pitch.

That was after he lost his proud original one in a poker game, anyhow, things like that
are always happening to him,
that's what she said, anyway.

And it happened to him at Laguna
and Chinle
and at Lukachukai too, because coyote got too smart for his own good.


But the Navajos say he won a contest once.
It was lo see who could sleep out in a
snow storm the longest
and coyote waited until chipmunk badger and skunk were all
curled up under the snow
and then he uncovered himself and slept all night
and before morning he got up and went out again
and wailed until the others got up before he came
in to take the prize.


Some white men came to Acoma and Laguna a hundred years ago
and they fought over Acoma land and Laguna women, and even now
some of their descendants are howling in
the hills southeast of Laguna


Charlie Coyote wanted to be governor
and he said that when he got elected
he would run the other men off
the reservation
and keep all the women for himself.


One year
the politicians got fancy
at Laguna.
They went door to door with hams and turkeys
and they gave them to anyone who promised
to vote for them.
On election day all the people
stayed home and ate turkey
and laughed.


The Trans-Western pipeline vice president came
to discuss right-of-way.
The Lagunas let him wait all day long
because he is a busy and important man.
And late in the afternoon they told him
to come back again tomorrow.


They were after the picnic food
that the special dancers left
down below the cliff.
And Toe'osh and his cousins hung themselves
down over the cliff
holding each other's tail in their mouth making a coyote chain
until someone in the middle farted
and the guy behind him opened his
mouth to say "What stinks?" and they
all went tumbling down, like that.


Howling and roaring
Toe'osh scattered white people
out of bars all over Wisconsin.
He bumped into them at the door until they said
          'Excuse me'
And the way Simon meant it
was for 300 or maybe 400 years.

With the Coyote story ... I wrote it after I came back from Wisconsin. And I had some other things in there. At first it started out to be something just about Simon and about that Writers Conference back in Wisconsin, and then I started remembering all these other things.

There's one way you deal with a Coyote story, see, the way I deal with it in Toe'osh. You can strip it down to sort of the bare details. And the way that piece is structured, the rest of the episodes of Coyote give you the kind of background that you need to have for Coyote. All the different parts work together so that one piece can stand in its sort of bare bones state, all by itself. But the way I have to tell the Coyote story to the kids is very different and it takes a lot more time and it takes a lot more space and it's a lot more fun too.

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Running on the Edge of the Rainbow: Laguna Stories and Poems

By This Song I Walk: Navajo Songs | Seyewailo: The Flower World Yaqui Deer Songs | The Origin of the Crown Dance: An Apache Narrative and Ba'ts'oosee: An Apache Trickster Cycle | Iisaw: Hopi Coyote Stories & Hopi Songs | Natwaniwa: A Hopi Philosophical Statement | Running on the Edge of the Rainbow: Laguna Stories and Poems | Songs of My Hunter Heart: Laguna Songs and Poems | A Conversation with Vine Deloria, Jr. | Home