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The Alphabet Snake

ISSUE:  Spring 1980
The air tastes like an angry cat,
cut grass, hot tar, and rotted plums.
The snake flickering its tongue calculates
its chances. It feels cold: the shadow
of the cat bending over it,
saying try, try.

It moves on the cement making a C. It makes a C
for caught, for claw, a C for the clouds
drifting overhead, into the mountains,
a C for cat, for catastrophe.

It makes an S for the silence
it feels like a stone dropping toward it, an S
for supple, for slither, for what it is: a snake.
It makes an S for the sky.

Strands of light twisting
around its spine it makes
a knot for its confusion.

It straightens, and begins sliding forward
out of its body, out of its own mouth, leaving
its skin for the last time, the first
number 1 and the letter I.


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