‘Snake’ by Britton Gildersleeve

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Winter: and the early harvest moon
rises on the mist of the night wind.
Snake has gone to ground,
seeping like thick fluid
into the spaces between earth’s warm bones.
Strung like the half notes of dew on spider’s web,
Snake’s dreams shimmer.
They flicker between worlds,
tongues licking at the wild honey of our lies.

Struggling deep into the frozen clay we burrow,
shaping with our songs each hand-smoothed brick.
Adobe strengthens through summer,
muddies in the winter rain.
We build the ring around the fire:
one brick upon another through the chilly night.
And Snake listens: even in his torpid dreams
he eavesdrops. His supple belly translates
every whisper the complicit earth yields.
We lean together, our truths cloaked
only in our own illusions.

Snake stirs, each glittering scale tuned
to earth’s fitful quiver. We await him.
Beyond the fire’s lighted circle
Snake rolls, hooplike. His tale
within his mouth, he loops,
inexorable.
What does Snake know?
Like light he is a wave he is a point he is everywhere
among us. He ripples over the wall
of our intentions, our stories that drift
upon the phantom smoke.
He haunts our troubled silences
while we try to rebuild truth.

But Snake reminds us:
truth is not a winter fire
laid against the brittle blade of fear.
It huddles through the night,
thin-skinned animal with wild heart.
While snake, truth’s sibilant guardian
waits, listening.

Britton Gildersleeve’s poetry has appeared previously in Nimrod, Passager, Spoon River, This Land Press, Futures Trading, Lincoln Underground, Atlas Poetica, and Florida Review, and other journals. She has three chapbooks: two from Pudding House, and one from Kattywompus Press. She blogs at https://teaandbreath.com.

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