Back to Issue Nineteen.

on poisonous snakes in puerto rico


Kansas takes many forms:
           cottonmouth, copperhead, massasauga,  
                      prairie, diamondback, timber.

Slit pupils, the extra pit between nostrils and mouth. 
           A mouth fitted for fangs. A single row of scales
                      laid like a brick garden border. 

I stumble on the medusa head
           neighborhood plains garter snakes tangle  
                      into during the weeks near spring. 

I show cautious children the photo
           on my phone matching the snake. No poison.  
                      The snakes are stubborn as cats. They wait

underneath the shadow of the neighbor’s tires. I coax
           them in another direction. My first
                      snake was a pencil-sized garter pissing

itself in my hand, making my skin slick enough
           to slip away.     I know there are no poisonous snakes
                      in Puerto Rico. It’s the pulse of something

that’s all spine. I fear that kind
           of exposure, with nothing to protect me
                      but muscle and sun-drunk stillness.




Bensel 19

Alyse Bensel’s poems have most recently appeared or are forthcoming in Quarterly West, New South,Bone BouquetGlass: A Journal of Poetry, and elsewhere. She is the author of the poetry chapbooks Not of Their Own Making (dancing girl press) and Shift (Plan B Press) and serves as the Book Reviews Editor at The Los Angeles Review. A PhD candidate in creative writing at the University of Kansas, she lives in Lawrence.

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