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the girl who buried snakes in a jar :: john haines

by on June 27, 2016

She came to see the bones
whiten in a summer,
and one year later a narrow
mummy with a dusty skin
and flaking scales
would break apart in her hand.

She wanted to see if sunlight
still glinted in those eyes,
to know what it lighted
from a window on the mallow roots,
leaf mold and fallen casques.

And to ask if a single tongue,
one forked flicker in the dark,
had found any heat in death:
in the closed space and chill
of that burial, what speech,
what sign would there be.

She who walked in the canyon early,
parted the grass and halted
upon the living snake, coiled
and mottled by a bitter pool,

unearthed her jar in another spring,
to find the snake spirit gone,
only a little green water standing,
some dust, or a smell.

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