|Apr/May 2013 Poetry Special Feature|
Artwork by Clinton McKay
My ex-husband grew up there, and I think again
of the stories he told me as I pack a small
bag and prepare to travel west for a conference.
I had myself grown up near Milwaukee, another
planet, so when he told me of how all of his neighbors'
yards were braceletted by high walls, dogs snarling
on their other sides, how his garage was nested
full of black widow spiders, how people checked
their shoes for the tiny scorpions that might
be hidden there, I turned my own shoes upside
down even living in Madison, as if he might
have brought those small and poisonous creatures
with him. He told me how he and his friend
would go out into the desert when they were boys,
where it is now identical house after identical
house, and catch snakes and lizards in a bucket,
sneaking them home, and how one day,
they saw a small sidewinder making its way
in fluid curves across the blowing sand.
They dumped their bucket without a word,
scattering what they had gathered, the various
skinks and whiptails, around their feet. The side-
winder was young, and they caught it easily, arguing
over who would be the one to slide the cover
under the vault of the bucket's opening. I don't
remember who finally did it, but the snake lived
for many years in an closet aquarium, kept a secret
from both of their mothers, fed on white mice
and crickets, its water dish filled as soon
as it emptied, its slither useless out of the sand.