Snake and Not Snake

Day 4 of a poem a day from Vagabonding, my second poetry book manuscript (this one from the too-big “Back for Forwards” section that I just broke in two, adding a new “One Step Forward” section that now comes after). My liebe Schwesterchen (dear little sister) Eva K. said she loved “The Living Murder“—enjoyed exploring the rich and beautiful dark side, knowing that I’m in a good place now. This gives me a convenient, other party on whom to blame my decision to continue for now in that vein.

It’s also germane to this week’s Nassar sentencing and the general din—the for-now white noise of news about violence against women, and the wave of sometimes small, sometimes Pyrrhic victories, but nonetheless victories over it. So far I feel good about the poems, and bad about the admittedly sketchy road illustrations. (Shrug.) I’m an artist. I make messes. MESSES ARE MY LIFE.

“Snake and Not Snake”

Something dark, glistening, and fast moved through my life.
I could tell you it was a snake.
Or describe the shock of making sense of the slither only after it was gone.
The shock is so much more like the experience
than a neat story that knows from the start
who is moving where, and who is cold-blooded at heart.
The not snake of not knowing what dark thing moves
wears its own uniform of death, its own fear-brain grooves.

I could focus on the bright city around me now.
Or remember the dark woods I ran through to get here.
Sometimes I’m in both places at once.
The dark branches of night reach out to me in the living room.
I run back to shiver in your arms,
and you warm me instantly.
My shivering melts into purring,
and although I want to cat you like a radiator until dawn,
and my body wants to wake your body up to play—
we go back to sleep
at least
until the break of day.

Snake and not snake still come back to me.
I don’t know who to give them to,
to set myself more free.
There and not there
make me here and not here,
but I won’t fly back into the fire,
won’t live in the old fear.
Will not fly back into the fire
that calls me still, my dear.