Sunday, May 3, 2015



Amber beads of venom welled out
above the x-incisions the nurse made
in the skin in the back of my brother's hand.
We had to hold him down to let her punch
out the escape hatches.  Bill was 11 and
still skinny.  I remember his screams.

He never saw the snake.  He had reached
into the dark under an abandoned shed.
The hospital was ten miles away, and Mama
drove like a lunatic down that empty two-lane blacktop.

As he screamed, and we watched the nurse,
her lips pressed together, daub away venom
they called for the only doctor, a local drunk.
Without clear ID of the snake species, the doc
waffled on giving antvenon.  Wrong one could
kill, he said.  Bill was stripped and put in a bed,
still yelling.  His arm swelled to the elbow, as if
inflated from within, and began turning dark.

Word went out, somehow, and all the men in our
tiny town converged on that shed with hoe and rifle.
Three snakes were found in the fields around, two rattlers
and a copperhead.  One rattler was huge.  Odds were maybe 2
out of 3.  Bill began throwing up, and a minute later
emptied his bowels.  He stopped screaming then.

Seizures began arcing him up from the bed.  Mama
started yelling, told the doctor to give him the rattler
antivenon, now goddammit.

Bill made the front page, grinning from his hospital bed
and holding a rotted arm up to the camera.  He lost
the use of one finger and had lifelong scars.  That night
Aunt Sarah had found someone to drive her from Dallas
and she sat with me in the cold hall, letting me cry
against her shoulder.  Daddy got there -- I don't remember
when he got there, to be honest.  Not that first night

As we waited to see if the antivenon was the right kind.

Venom has a small smell, too.  It was beautiful, that colour.

I am the only person alive now who was there.  Why does
it matter, what happened that day?  It's just a narrative
created by stardust that passed through briefly.  But
it's all I have.

Copyright Maggie Jochild
3:17 pm, 3 May 2015

1 comment:

Margot said...

It matters. this narrative of stardust.

And now it's out here, part of the world, and now we all have it, too.