Excerpt

Who is awâsis?

awâsis, awâsis. The settler is confused
about your shapeshifting. You can't decide
if you're an animal or a human,
or if you are a he or a she.
I am from the iskonikan, a nehiyaw who has seen
talking animals, the roadrunner, big bird, bugs
bunny, projections on television, and movies.

kayâs our people spoke with all Creation.
And all Creation understood each other.
The âtayôhkêwina say animals and humans shapeshifted.
Was the trickster, wîsahkêcâhk, a coyote or a person?

Seizing the mic, wîsahkêcâhk urges the rolling-hips
to the blind-duck dance.
She'll smoke her cigar at the prayer lodge,
piss at the tail-end of a prized treadmill.

awâsis, I've heard you speak. My antennas
strain to listen. Your voice so raspy and soft.
You tell us how your kôhkom
poured skunk oil into your swollen throat.
You fan the sweat rocks,
eagle wing scorching our flesh.
You bring Grandmother Skunk's medsin to bless us,
while Bear Child heals us with her lard.
awâsis, who am I without you?
You've blended into my sagging and wrinkled skin,
watched the owl wisdom of your face
in the skylight of my dreams.
You've hidden your laughter
under years of my travel-worn feet.

Remember When

awâsis dreamt she married herself,
with full-moon breasts,
with a phallus and gonads.
When she woke, her body
was a full-grown woman,
her spirit entwined in a warrior's heart.
She gave birth like any other
bear, grunting, groaning, and pushing
forth a blood-river of land-filled brawls.

awâsis worked like a wolverine,
hefty muscles wearing tattoos.
Her feet a ballet dancer's desire,
fingers that traced a cello with the lightness
of a butterfly's wings.
When you see her today
she's the man on stage, her bulge
straining against her ballet tights.
She's the woman wearing work boots,
driving a transport loaded with fruit,
going cross-country.
Remember when the two-legged
had three, four, five, six, and
sometimes seven: he, she, he-she,
she-he, she-she, and he-he!!

In nehiyaw country, when people speak
of a man or woman, they refer to them
as he and she. They know that spirit
is neither and is all.

Description

There are no pronouns in Cree for gender; awâsis (which means illuminated child) reveals herself through shapeshifting, adopting different genders, exploring the English language with merriment, and sharing his journey of mishaps with humour, mystery, and spirituality. Opening with a joyful and intimate Foreword from Elder Maria Campbell, awâsis—kinky and dishevelled is a force of Indigenous resurgence, resistance, and soul-healing laughter.

Reviews

"'Indians laugh. That's what they do. ' So says awâsis, the 'kinky and disheveled' spirit who appears as many characters in Sky Dancer's storytelling romp that reveals the jokes, the life beneath them, and beneath those, listen up, a profound and joyous worldview. The point for you, awâsis would say, is to laugh with us. awâsis is the innocence shining in all created things; the trickster who knows the fart is greater than the storm, for the fart moves the spirit from within. In its poetic mirth, this is a book for those who have no wall between the planet and themselves-and for those who want to be rid of the walls of disdain that keep them apart from the pleasures of their own flesh. This is what it is like, awâsis will show you, to love the body in all its predicaments, in all its humours. "--Richard Harrison, author of On Not Losing My Father's Ashes in the Flood