Taneum Bambrick

On the side of a trail, pinned between flakes of mulch,
R and I find a bright snakeskin molt, flattened
and straight as a bookmark—nothing at all like snakes
which, she claims, never straighten except while measuring.
Her boa constrictor slept under the covers of her bed
until the night she woke to find him pressed
in a line against her back. This was his way, she decided,
of determining if her body would fit inside his own.
We pass the molt between us in the sunlight,
take turns bending it around our necks, in our hair.
The perfect ovals the eyes left. The bottom jaw creased
from when the snake became the snake twisting out of its own mouth.
Lately, I have been trying to see what it takes to make another person
desire me. I feel grey-skinned, like the first naked bodies I saw:
three human cadavers lined on metal tables with doors
cut out of their chests. I was fourteen, holding their hearts in my hands.
In a dream, the snakes are circling the trees. I am trying to protect
the person I love, or I won’t allow him to leave.

Taneum BambrickTaneum Bambrick is the author of Intimacies, Received (Copper Canyon Press 2022), and VANTAGE (American Poetry Review 2019). Her work appears or is forthcoming in the New Yorker, The Nation, PEN, and elsewhere. She is a Dornsife Fellow in Creative Writing and Literature at the University of Southern California.