This Just In: Infant Found on I-81 In Macon County With Copperhead Guarding Him—Has Been Named Snake Baby
He’s some kinda witchcraft.
A witch must’ve dropped him
down with that snake all around
him like that. ‘Ain’t natural.
There’s been a darkness put over Macon
County today. I sensed it last night come
down and wash over us. The wind was blowin’
in the wrong direction.
I’m a momma of five and no matter
how many times someone’s come after
me for not doing right by my kids well I
can say I never let one of ‘em get a snake
wrapped around ‘em.
Poor baby, probably so scared.
Where’s his momma?
I heard he doesn’t even have parents.
He just sorta came from the sky
like an angel but I dunno if it’s the bad
kind of angel or the good kind.
‘Cause there’s both ya know.
Dear child, born cursed. No
mother to run to. No brother
to grow with. No last name
to honor. Bound to nothin’
in this world but the skin on his bones.
Surely this is him.
He has come for me.
Colonel Luther’s Vision of Snake Baby
He’s in my skin.
The Son of Snakes.
The Child of the Copperhead.
His eyes appear at night
Beg me to challenge him.
I am being called upon.
I feel the skin of his sons
shedding my spinal cord
until all blood is drained
and I am white with purity.
I am washed clean and reborn.
He is reckoning, forgiveness.
Colonel Luther Explains the Prophecy of Snake Baby
It is a cheap banquet hall. Colonel Luther rents
from a man who speaks little English. Water stains
on the ceiling. Some folding chairs have rust. A room
full of bodies with empty space for right hands.
We must not disrupt The Serpent.
If The Serpent wishes solitude,
it is given. We must not speak
to The Serpent unless he approaches
first. Understand. If The Serpent wishes
booze and cigarettes, it is given.
These are the sins of the world,
but The Serpent is our prophecy.
If The Serpent wishes Rhonda,
he will be given Rhonda. She has been chosen
to aid the prophecy. Do not envy,
do not pity. Rejoice in Rhonda
for she brings The Serpent to us.
Rhonda sulks at the corner of a plywood stage.
Fears eye contact. Haunted by what The Serpent
might look like, smell like. How The Serpent
might smack her like her ex-husband
did too many times before she found redemption.
She stands at the Colonel’s nod. She belongs
to The Serpent. She brings The Serpent.
The Cult Discusses Snake Baby
He is his mother’s son.
He is the child of the pit viper.
He comes from Earth, from bone.
No, he is without bone.
He sheds to new life. His skin
of rock and soft suede. His fangs
that crack click tinged with poison.
He sees us with his ears. We must be loud
enough to know him. We must be soft
to let The Serpent rest. Do not disrupt
The Serpent. Crack click tinged with poison.
He who makes limbs twitch to dark matter.
Twitch to decay. The transition to new skin.
Snake Baby Visits Colonel Luther’s Office
It smells like pine or just being
in the woods. The entry looks
like it was built for a politician
and I swear Colonel Luther
probably tried to run for senate
one time or another.
He keeps a bowl of popcorn kernels
on his desk. His favorite snack.
And I don’t know if that’s why
we have to call him Colonel
or if he was actually in the military.
I know it’s rude not to call him Colonel.
Fresh leather chairs. Studded
with gold bolts. I can’t stop fidgeting
with them. Maybe because the back wall
is lined with hands. Mounted like trophies
at the Colonel’s back. I wouldn’t want
to be in here if he hadn’t called me.
I don’t know why we meet in here.
He usually stares at me, smirks, tosses
back some kernels. When we talk
it’s confusing. All questions and prophecies.
Sometimes I just zone out. Pretend
the hands are my mother’s reaching out to me.
Snake Baby Marks His Calendar in Red—REBIRTH
The “surgeon” is sharpening his circular
saw—and I can’t stop staring at his hands.
The way the garage lamp highlights the saw
like an engagement ring. Then, how the saw’s light refracts
onto his hands. A spotlight of his completeness.
Colonel Luther says he needs both
his hands for the surgeries. Two hands
and a saw—three limbs bringing me
to one. Answering my incompleteness.
People’s faces smothered
with laughter. People dying
from laughing at me. Stares,
open-mouthed, whispers. Shame
without redemption. The flecks
of my blood are nightmares of the future.
Rhonda wears my ring.
Everything is powder.
Her smile. Our children
are a JC Penny catalog.
My teeth are straight
like the fence line.
Our son is named after
my best friend but his face
begins to haunt my dandelion
life. The pain returns in chunks.
Wichita rolls over, arm across
my chest. We pop spit bubbles
and cuddle for hours. Our children
jump on the bed. Our laughter melts
to feather pillows. Our fingers inter-
twine—window light begins to blind
me through his smile. The light of the saw—
the surgeon’s hands reach from his teeth.
I’m restrained with rope.
There is a woman on the road
in front of me. She has my crooked
smile but she’s a corn field
of beauty. I feel the tears roll down
my face, her face. She’s reaching
her hands to me—
her fingers turn to Copperheads.