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Friend Blue Snake

ISSUE:  Winter 1997

Light, far away, faltering like a votive at the feet of a blue saint
who blesses only the most lost of causes.
The man and woman on a dark path walk home wordlessly
as if it were an ordinary evening.

But it is the time of the moon fat with maggots; no pearls!
no pearls! sticky shellac-light calls, falling.
The time of the starving underground animals up for a feed.
Time of the masks of sequins cut from the dresses of old dolls,

sewn onto human skin. Something only as evident
as wind is tracking the humans. Tree-top leaves,
under its weight, treble and click
trying to rid themselves of its sour body.

Allowed any power but to touch the earth, what it wants
is everything—the books
in the man’s bag, pages black and rich as loam,
secrets written there roots teach the burrowers:

vole, five-hearted earthworm and mouse
who carries the entire meadow underground
in memory every time it descends
into the fragrant dark: bone, seed, star, stone.

Wants the hourglass the woman uses to measure time; sand
she allowed to slip back to sea, then made another kind
of ocean in the emptiness. Pollen and saifron
now sifting back and forth in the glass house no bigger than an egg.

It wants the bees that float behind them night and day
in disorderly, obedient veils, whispering what
has been translated
from lost libraries hidden deep in living flowers.

This shudder through dying leaves, this animal of string
and rotten meat, this beast
who dips its tongue in corpse entrails delicately
as a hummingbird might feed at a fuchsia bloom
wants to swallow the man and woman

walking home whole: hangnail, finger clipping, heartbeat, soul.
Says so in a sound like a child’s flute, oasis, mesmerizing,
go to sleep now, it is safe, look,

the ocean, sea glass white and blue tumbling into gems at the edge;
take off your heavy coat, abandon yourself to the azure palace
of god’s first water. Bells in the distance, goat bells, bells
braided into the shaggy manes of old ponies,

wind chimes chanting away in gold laughter the hungry ghosts.
But behind it all, the man and the woman hear the whistle,
decades old, of the death camp trains. Dust falling
through still air. They hear and turn to each other,

baring the truth of it between them in one look—book of fire,
then they fall to the ground in one body,
blue snake,
every part of that body touching earth, swum forward by earth;

first light, faraway light, a library older than Alexandria
cool stone corridors welcome blue snake in as desert welcomes
and because of this, the child tortured then slaughtered,
left stinking at the side of the road is now carried

into the green breath of the meadow of the oldest story
and is rinsed there and restored; where tears
on the cheeks of the late night reader leave no scars, only a slight
trace of pollen and the black pages of the night books burn with aurora


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