This is a long death bending the sawgrass,

shibboleth of wetlands long-since escaped.

Two chthonic children of leviathan

make us feel as though we’ve somehow escaped,

are safe enough from harm to feel privileged.


An anchor of knots, the python rides down

its foe like a sledge into the shallows,

the struggle noiseless and almost playful,

like bath-time in a tub of brackish murk,

two golden lenses sunken like treasure.


They cannot die like we know how to die.

Five hours go by, the snake uncoils gently,

ferrying its prey over feathered reeds

where their gazes cross at last, expressions

unfigured in defeat or victory.


The snake loosens its sore mandible

sliding the croc’s head into its carriage,

embracing womb-like the stillborn lizard.

They are one body, separate somehow,

shifting its tired belly to the warm sun.


Though nothing has changed, we may think so,

The snake hasn’t noticed the limbs of its meal

waving from its stomach, and the horror—

I think that is in us and not in them—

a feeling familiar, then forgotten.

R. Charboneau

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