by Keith Ekiss
Published: Sat Jul 1 2006
Wosene Worke Kosrof, The Inventor V (detail), 2022, acrylic on linen. Courtesy of Sullivan Goss Gallery, Santa Barbara, California
Even the rattle, like skin, is camouflage
—sound of mesquite pods shaking
from a violent breeze. Take the shortcut
home through the wash, its length
draws a line in the sand, thicker
than the thickest bullwhip. Better
to find one flat, belly to dust,
as in the Bible, then coiled like a maze.
The last thing a snake wants is to strike:
my skin doesn’t leave a hunting scent.
It’s best to freeze and step away slowly.
My mother had seen one sidewinding
through the kitchen. We hid in her room,
with the spade, until my father found it
in the shadows of the bed. He slit the body
lengthwise. I recoiled. Arms went itchy.
Everything crawled with cruelty.
An oily smell scrolled up from the skin.
He hung the slough to dry—
skeletal and waxy in garage light.