Water snake, you slide between my thighs
and the driftwood fork of you
beds splinters in my flesh;
there is no recourse to this action.
I trace the pattern of these dead things,
pleasant punctures of serpentine grace,
sharp arrows of self-righteousness.
Quilled, I slip down, spine to stone,
send my hands trailing
liquid fingers to the riverside.
All winter you slept under me,
torpor ridden and ice burning.
When the green shoots split your sides
you woke hungry for the river,
and twisting out, thread your sinew
through the stones.
Water snake, you sprout legs,
slowly they emerge,
unfolding like waking spiders;
each a jointed complaint to your belly,
and you scuttle sideways
rolling hardboiled eyes
at the drowning moon.
I, touching the current,
take up the water line,
gather it to my breast and swallow
this hot pebble left on my tongue.
I watch you flounder in the rippling;
spider twigs scrabbling against
the red scales of your demise.
Under patient moon, I pull out
each peculiar fragment;
plant them on the shore where they bud
their own skitterish legs
and weep themselves
into the mossy night.
I touch my fingertips to these
raised welts on my thighs,
perfect points of release,
and cover them in spruce pitch and ashes.
This life blood smoldering,
I exhale, and cup the open sky.