When the Boy Takes Up Serpents
The rattler coiled sleeping unfolds its echo of spine spittle of rain into steam into venom flavored cloud warm rock boiling agave syrupy soft chorus of crickets bowing spiny legs on spiny legs on the chopsticks she wore in her hair. The rattler winds its way to shadow writing lyrics of warning with segments of keratin stay there stay there stay there kick dust mambo and rhumba and tango a red camellia above her ear. The rattler opens a mottled eye leaning meet it with hazel shushing dare you dare you dare you. Numbers in Matthew are code for a line about betrayal in the script of tongues when the villain clutches your throat closed larynx a million phrases pass between the boy and the rattler. Dazzling scales tight constricted airborne defiant instant lethal fangs popping like the book momma gave him from which a gingerbread house sprung what greed for sugar will get you honey. The rattler catches the boy’s cheek below the eye not time for a blink or stare or phrenology. The rattler’s serum hustling capillary destroy and supplant supplant supplant. A genie appears in the boy’s mouth…the rattler’s gift. What greed for lyrics will get you. What numbers tell you. Your red camellia of sun.
Ann Stewart McBee was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan. She graduated with a PhD in creative writing at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, where she taught writing and served as an editor for cream city review. She has published fiction and poetry in Citron Review, Blue Earth Review, Palaver, and At Length among others. She now teaches English at Des Moines Area Community College, and lives outside Des Moines, Iowa with her husband. twitter: @AnnStewartMcBee