Coast Salish Women (a set of three poems) by Patrick Loafman

Coast Salish Women (a set of three poems)

Patrick Loafman





The Zipper of Hungry Teeth

A Coast Salish woman crouches
between two fallen buildings,

unzips the pavement
as easily as a suitcase,

unlocks lupines and lilies
and the silver scales of fish

discarded like coins
too heavy to carry.

Concrete becomes supple,
becomes worn leather.

She could zip herself open,
turn her flesh inside out,

emptying the purse she was,
and all she swallowed,

the children she failed to birth.
But she’s quick to disguise herself

as the pigeon who once nested on cliffs
but now coos softly above crumbled brick

from her perch beneath the bridge.

– Patrick Loafman







Tuesday Morning

A Coast Salish woman becomes a man
Enamored with her penis
Marries a redhead from Cape Cod
Her twin girls resemble ghosts
The first time she holds them
The universe shrinks to a pinhole
Poked through puffy clouds

White ravens circle his dreams
He wakes believing he was once Woman
Sits still beneath the blankets
Not wanting to disturb the moment
It’s how all men begin and end
A certain softness beneath the skin
Before standing and dressing
Knotting the tie firmly beneath the apple
Half-swallowed in his throat.

– Patrick Loafman








The Map of Our Flesh

When the coastal women show up at our doors
They clothe their tongues with Mexican accents
And so we pay them as little as possible

We hand them our dirty laundry and children
They bleach them in the Salish Sea
Until everything is so white

They’ve done it for generations
Filling even the slightest corners
With a certain dark magic

It’s the way of all change
That of masks and mirrors
As though we all could exchange skin

As easily as a set of socks
Pull a woolen smile over wounds
Screaming like tiny pink mouths

The way our children cry once
The Salish women leave
Return to their ancestral waters

Leaving us clean and raw
Conscious if only for a moment
Of distant aquatic origins

When every pore dotting
The map of our flesh
Were once a way to breathe.


Patrick Loafman is a wildlife biologist who, in the summer, studies everything from spotted owls and toads, to moss and snakes; in the winters he writes, creates gourd art and plays homemade gourd musical instruments. These three poems are the possible start of a new chapbook. Patrick has two chapbooks of poetry – Song of the Winter Wren and Desert Journal – and he edits the quarterly journal, The Dandelion Farm Review. His first novel, “Somewhere Upriver,” was published by Event Horizon Press in 2013, and is available at all major online bookstores. To follow Patrick’s writing, art and music visit

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