Phillip St. Clair
An especially apt title for St. Clair’s 1985 collection of poems, Little-Dog-of-Iron has thrived during its sixteen years in print. The poems follow the trickster Coyote as St. Clair creates him in both modern and ancient myth, with occasional historical interludes based on fact, in which “Coyote Addresses His Brothers the Wolves and the Foxes.” St. Clair, like Coyote, mixes the horrific with the humorous unpredictably, for as Howard McCord writes in his introduction to the poems, “laughter and tears are brothers.” A somber “Coyote with the Shadow People” therefore finds itself with “Coyote Horny” and “Coyote in Law School.” The end result stands alongside the work of Sherman Alexie and James Welch and, as McCord writes, “Coyote has never sung better.” Philip St. Clair’s book At the Tent of Heaven appeared in 1984 from Ahsahta Press.
The full text of Philip St. Clair’s Little-Dog-of-Iron is stored at Albertson Library at Boise State University, and can be downloaded here. You may also purchase a copy of the book.
Coyote Hitchhikes the Suburbs
This is what comes from avoiding women
With loud children—a night ride
In a pious stranger’s truck. In his cab
There is no small talk. The only light
Is on his cigarette.
He knows about Jesus,
Who will lever him out of his Dodge
Come rapture-day. All his neighbors,
The jealous sinners, will gape and whine
As he soars home.
I watch my head
Glide over fine houses. I see many cats.
They are oily, indolent, secure. They nest
By tinted windows. They stare at traffic.
They brood and grin.
All televisions are on.
I think they keep the ghosts of cats,
Hardhead cats who dove through picture tubes
After the light. Now they cry to women
Who cannot hear them.
Keep me far from all light-eaters,
The ones who seek yet do not embrace,
The ones who live in cold, clear fire
And move alone.
Copyright © 1985 by Philip St. Clair
Phillip St. Clair is the author of four books of poetry. His poems have appeared in Black Warrior Review, Gettysburg Review, Harper's, Poetry Review [London], Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, Shenandoah, Quarterly West, and elsewhere. He has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Kentucky Arts Council and was awarded the Bullis Prize from Poetry Northwest. He lives with his wife Christina in the Appalachian mountains of Carter County, Kentucky. St. Clair’s book At the Tent of Heaven appeared in 1984 also from Ahsahta Press.