Snake Elegy

by Miles Kelley

my father froze a snake head
in the freezer. It slunk down
green as the curtain stripe

and stepmother screamed,
the sibilant silenced after a quick clasp
across the gullet with a shovel.

the tail still stirred on the carpet
in motion with tongue,
as if working its way
through tall yellow grass,
fresh leaf litter—

bolting the steel crawler
raising berms
somewhere in the new yard
outside our house.

That night,
we made black lentil stew
and talked about snake-leather boots.
Pretended what it was like
to be farm cats hunting for prey.

Miles Kelley recently graduated from UNC Asheville with a major in International Studies and a minor in Environmental Studies. He works as a farmhand on a small organic vegetable farm and enjoys hiking, writing, and dancing. His agrarian family history and interest in environmental and social justice greatly influence his writing.

About Snake Elegy—This poem was inspired by a memory of my dad showing me a frozen snakehead during a time when we lived in an eccentric double-basement prairie house next to a lake. A draftsman for NASA space shuttles cobbled the house together as a hobby, which resulted in quite a bit of wildlife finding their way in from the surrounding forest. The poem addresses the wildlife destruction that arises as we idealize planting our homes in otherwise pristine or recuperating ecosystems.