Doug Ramspeck: “Snake Handler Years”




My brother lifted a snake once from the backyard
where he had beaten it to death with a stick
then held it dangling beneath the bird-lime clouds
while a light oil of sunlight glistened beyond
his shoulder. And I have come to think that the years
tumble to the ground then decay into vinegar or commune
at night with the carrion moon, which dreams itself
amid vulturous clouds. It was a black snake
my brother held, longer than his arm, and he had
caught it on its torsional journey across the grass.
And I think often about that snake hanging limply
in his hands, and I recall the rapture of the summer
heat and envision the snake with its dangling body
that seemed to say i am wreckage now. And the memory
is like a vertigo of trickster light suffusing a morning
fog along a river, and it brings with it a nagging
despair like the tap of summer rain.


Doug Ramspeck is the author of eight poetry collections, one collection of short stories, and a novella. One recent book, Black Flowers, is published by LSU Press. Five books have received awards: Distant Fires (Grayson Books Poetry Prize), The Owl That Carries Us Away (G. S. Sharat Chandra Prize for Short Fiction), Original Bodies (Michael Waters Poetry Prize), Mechanical Fireflies (Barrow Street Press Poetry Prize), and Black Tupelo Country (John Ciardi Prize for Poetry). Individual poems have appeared in journals that include Southern Review, Kenyon Review, Slate, and Georgia Review.

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