Friend Blue Snake

By McBride, Mekeel | The Virginia Quarterly Review, Winter 1997 | Go to article overview

Friend Blue Snake


McBride, Mekeel, The Virginia Quarterly Review


Light, far away, faltering like a votive at the feet of a blue saint who blesses only the most lost of causes. The man and woman on a dark path walk home wordlessly as if it were an ordinary evening.

But it is the time of the moon fat with maggots; no pearls! no pearls! sticky shellac-light calls, falling. The time of the starving underground animals up for a feed. Time of the masks of sequins cut from the dresses of old dolls,

sewn onto human skin. Something only as evident as wind is tracking the humans. Tree-top leaves, under its weight, treble and click trying to rid themselves of its sour body.

Allowed any power but to touch the earth, what it wants is everything-the books in the man's bag, pages black and rich as loam, secrets written there roots teach the burrowers:

vole, five-hearted earthworm and mouse who carries the entire meadow underground in memory every time it descends into the fragrant dark: bone, seed, star, stone.

Wants the hourglass the woman uses to measure time; sand she allowed to slip back to sea, then made another kind of ocean in the emptiness. Pollen and saffron now sifting back and forth in the glass house no bigger than an egg.

It wants the bees that float behind them night and day in disorderly, obedient veils, whispering what has been translated from lost libraries hidden deep in living flowers.

This shudder through dying leaves, this animal of string and rotten meat, this beast who dips its tongue in corpse entrails delicately as a hummingbird might feed at a fuchsia bloom

wants to swallow the man and woman walking home whole: hangnail, finger clipping, heartbeat, soul. …

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