Feb 24

Milk Snake (Redshaw)

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Milk Snake, by Thomas Dillon Redshaw (1944-)

Wild mushrooms know their names.

We call them toadstools while they crouch

in the invisible daylight under

the birches that lean over a yellow field

you cross into the sun

ahead of me.


A stone wall sways behind us.

You picked the rush pannier, I the book

of identities, and dry stone

made grey slipshod noises under our shoes,

or do grasses whisper by

a path you made?


What you forget is this shadow:

not scrap cellophane or a day-lily leaf here,

but the curled and lucent skin

of a milk snake that stretched out of itself

into the wheaten sun

of slow August.


Oh that snake mopes in the barn.

Cows won’t give it milk, nor the hen an egg.

Shadowless beings spook them.

When I forgot the book by draping the skin

on my shoulder — empty jaws

biting an empty tail —


did this long creature in its new

and mottled skin circle quickly in old straw

and lick its diminishing tail

with the flickering tongue you call with

from the nameless mosses

of the white wood?

Words That Burn