I couldn’t tell you how souls move, but do by guess, feel their slump and weight

swimming above a crowd of clumsy divers that flop from the jumping rock

while I wade the river, inner tube lost to bow-cut rapids with lain down trees


where I find a snake below the surface painting its face with sun. Streaked red

from climbing the steep, clay bank barefoot, I smell like the water—like childhood

where fishing camps still hang on to their pilings over bayou mud beds seeded


with a colony of rusted cans waiting to slice a swimmer’s foot in the tide of warm salt

water and minnow shiners nosing for a feast. It is late June and the bottomland is sop

from evening rain, but sapling-rich where I’m drawn out of the shade. The snake’s eyes


are iridescent engine oil, still. Uncoiled underwater along an elm limb, scales ripened

yellow-black like bells of alligator pear on a windowsill. Snakes have the softest hands

in their next life, and they are teased for it. I think you know that already, having seen it


in the rotation of shifting from spirit to daughter to mother to memory and what we have

here now—the hammered shine I hold my breath then snatch at—but the snake turns

to branch bark—is no spirit at all. My hands rough and empty. My memories wasted

in the river. Do you see that I’ve forgotten how you told me not to reach out?