The snake is strung with drops of poison, gold
amber rosary beads,
ending with his golden eye.
Alabaster day, the town square blurred
by the heat of the fire
under a pot. Dust when they dragged her out.
They used my pot to boil the pitch, my knife to slice
the pillows for the eider down feathers, my chair
from the kitchen. My chocolate. My cigarettes.
His throat is dry, which means
his whole body is dry, even the venom.
Pitchy pine tar stings both tips of his tongue.
The ancient well in the middle of town
keeps the ground shady and damp. Probably there are coins down at the bottom.
The snake coils next to the cool stones.
The newsreel is black and white and captioned
collaborateur. No one in the film notices the snake by the well: the snake
can barely be seen, doesn’t look gold.
The snake has cervical eyes that try to close.
That day, there are many round things: the well, the girl’s mouth
when the tar poured down, a sticky mantilla of webs.
He can feel the yelling and someone crying so hard
under his white jacob’s ladder belly.
The feathers wafting down were not birds.
A snake is like a god, exiled.
Its Jacob’s Ladder belly is soft and white and feels
everything we fear.
What hurt most was the woman
who held my chin up
so the feathers would stick to my face.
JENNIFER MARTELLI was born and raised in Massachusetts, and graduated from Boston University and The Warren Wilson M.F.A. Program for Writers. She’s taught high school English as well as women’s literature at Emerson College in Boston. Her work has appeared in the following publications: Tar River Review, Bop Dead City, burntdistrict, Melancholy Hyperbole. She was a recipient of the Massachusetts Cultural Council Grant in Poetry and recently received a Pushcart Nomination. Her chapbook, “Apostrophe,” was published in 2010 by BigTable Publishing Company. You can read more of her work at jennifermartelli.com. She lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts.