A snake in the first days of springtime came

Riding the hot blacktop before my feet,

She came pulling her wagon-body slow,

Her carriage bearing the load of herself

And gravel beneath like many wheeled logs

Carting her and baking her sand belly.

I stooped to my knees, my nose over her

To watch the sun reflecting in her scales,

And saw that she was shedding for April,

A plastic coat of winter down her neck

Rolled like unbuttoned cuffs up the elbows.

She moved as one fluid pulse, as one wave

Crawling up the shore, and just as quickly

Drawing back and then falling in again,

Her muscles, like waves, breaking inside her.

And as she went her old wet flesh peeled back

And there was her other self, slick and black.

I watched the train of loose skin slide over

That new flesh, tugging at the tenderness,

The soft, blanket warmth of flesh upon flesh,

And the washed, cold breath of the wind that came

As a tonic, engorging her white eyes.

Her body gone, she was naked and fresh,

Climbing weakly to safety, the old dress

Thrown and curling in the heat behind her.

She quickened her pace over my fingers,

Wary of new touch but recalling how

Very much like old touch it seems to be.

And the plated gel of her flesh to me

Was memories of loves I did not know.

Where shall my dress one day be thrown, and when?

And who should strip me naked before them

That I may be new, for him and myself?

Must I grow old before I feel young again?

Many times I’ve played the mistress dreaming

Childlike fantasies of being older

When I looked back on destiny seeming

To miss myself, a lover to many men.

It will be like this garter coming out

The tunnel of herself after winter,

Always new yet herself always unchanged.

How damp her eyes, yet not having cried,

How easy she, wriggling, leaves herself behind.


R. Charboneau

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