Through branch thick, fighting
over thorned fences, climbing
into icy waters, stepping
This, her storied ever-memory
Then smoke seen rising
then brambles clearing
then green grass stretching
‘Round a leafless corpse’s last stand
yellow, trimmed white and four cornered
roof-capped where chimney’s grey tail floats
A chair-perched porch
Feet dew licked, grassblood stained
approaching wary, unbelieving
a mismatched staircase greets her
Numbered short, a flight of three
decayed, grey paint curl-flakes
above, the well-kept porch beckons
They will betray me…yet there’s only three.
Beneath wormwood step, first of three
her wild-weight offered carefully
its rot confesses with hollow groans
Don’t stand still on lies.
Woodmoan rattles memory’s chains
whispers what always comes next
she steps quickly to second of three
Don’t run, child. Be brave.
Handrail falls, snapping in her hand
second cracks underfoot, arms reel
third then, before second swallows
NO!…is this another carrot trap?
The treachery openly plain on three
Splintertoothed voids, broken board maws
and through the gaps something lurks
Her footfall careful turns stutter-step scream
a serpent winds out of the secret dark, peeking
up through the falsework, eyes squintless
“Easy, I’m not what I seem,” the snake offers.
“A lesson men taught by devouring my flesh,”
A slow hiss-sad recognition escapes his length
his glossy sunbathed blackness turns iridescent
as he stretches long, emerging fully
“But men they weren’t…just hiding their truth.
Beneath suit and skin, lay fur and fang, yes?”
“True, but what of you then,” she asks, frozen.
Blue-black and legless he crawls
creeps he up past three, to porchtop
his darkness curls, pauses
“I once was a boy, I think,” he ponders.
“Before I was force fed the shadows of long-dead rats.”
Three’s crossbeam shatters, a gunshot
she tips backward, cries out, fights balance
as fire blooms from her eyes, she lunges
Arms and legs splay as she lands hard
face first, sliding across the solid porchtop
greets a scaly vision too closely
Her’s tigerflecked, his a blank milky-blind
locked stares as time stood, waiting
his restless forktongue first to set time moving
“Do it. Strike me. It was your plan,”
she surrenders bitterly.
“It certainly was not. I feared you lost.
I have not arms to catch nor eyes to see.”
The snake yawns wide, an offering of human teeth
her terror deer-feral shifts to flee
the abominable horror worse than fangs expected
“What are you?” She barks, bolting upright.
“A lie, I think.”
“I know lies. Wolves never reveal themselves
until they dine. Deceit is their lie.
But your vileness is obvious…
a lie you tell yourself?” She reasons.
“Yes. I think so.”
Warmth remembered of a sun forgotten
presses skin and scale, almost painful
this place sharp with peace, a biting oddity
“What is this?” She wonders warily.
“A warmth was what beckoned me out the chilled dark.
This is all I know. What do you see?”
Her question answered by
eyes lidless and smoke-filled.
Old companions, her long skirt floats above bare feet
to gentle curtain-framed glass, she peers
her face softens from its harrowed lines
“A rug loom-wove bears a pillowed couch,
a stone hearth cradles flame
through a window I see.
A door wooden with brass knob the entry.
A table chair stands with us on a porch.”
“A home? Knock, would you?”
Door greets with an unowned welcome,
delicate fingers curl as hand raises, knocks gently
shawl falls from arm’s catch,
unveiled skin a tale of struggle’s scars
The door answers with silence. “Try the knob,”
the handless serpent coaxes.
“To try feels wrong even as the door whispers to open it.
“You tell yourself lies too. Try.”
Heart begs as old voices sing favorite refrains
Hesitant fingers wrap warm sunsparked brass, twist
unyielding answer blows a familiar cold soulward
“It’s locked, and the door without keyhole.”
She says in a sigh laced with tears
as she collapses in the lone chair.
“I don’t want to go back to the woods.”
“Nor I to the shadows and cold.
This is enough, for now I guess.”
“I guess,” she echoes in agreement.
Of their fate resigned,
shared silence the evidence
stilled even is the shadowed wood
past pasture’s green borders
its ever-gnawing presence muted,
unknown whether in wait or respect
Snake uncoils, tongue sensing where she rests.
“I have an uncomfortable request,”
his voice hinting a tremble as he slithers to her feet.
“Would you be brave enough to hold me in your lap?
Cold’s callous indifference
my memory’s only known companion.”
Bending down her hands scoop
with unhesitant surprise
pulls him to her lap,
her touch reading more of his story
scalebare scars wander down his shape,
skin under scaleskin fleshy
“A molting of sorts I hope,” he confesses.
“My vision lost, as it began.”
“Yes, I think you are shedding your lie.
Forced to wander by loss, like me.”
“Will you stay here with me,
however long we are allowed?”
The words fighting to be spoken
as she braces for pain’s reply.
Without a word Snake slides from her lap,
gently wraps his length around her waist
and swallows his tail.