“The Rattler”

A Poem by Gabriel Kruis, from Acid Virga

February 2, 2021  By Gabriel Kruis

When I was 6 or so

Rush Limbaugh was always
on the radio, and I was
always in the family
station wagon
running errands
with my dad,
Mondays, he liked
to buy a dozen
day-olds at the
Puritan Bakery
down the street,
to eat them while
he wrote his sermons,
and drank his coffee
black, And while I
waited in the car,
I couldn’t help it,
I was drawn to that
voice, its rhythm
coming through
the speakers, that
disembodied rasp,
I remember he’d
read a litany of men
who’d died, press
a button, and wait
for the canned applause
to quiet, and though
the terms were big
the gist was clear
so over the years
I pieced it all together
from the way
people laughed when
me and my best friend
called each other
“husband,” from how
the older boys talked
and, in the fields
one summer, from P’s
need to secretly
touch me, and I remember
learning, I forget
when, the disease
could live in your blood
for years, For years
I thought one day
I’d get sick or
suddenly die,
It could have been
that week, that
month, or that same
evening, after listening
to Rush on the radio,
a rattler came gliding
out of the high dry
grass where I was
playing, But just like that
my dad, when I went
to get him, with a spade,
five jabs, and a flick, cut
the head from the body,
leaving it in five even
pieces in the dust,
and I remember over
supper how he told us
how the poison works,
How it turns the skin
black and kills
the cells so wounds
won’t close, How the
little ones are
worse, not yet knowing
how to staunch
the venom’s flow,
I finished my meal,
I cleared my plate,
I went outside,
The sun was going down,
and in the yard
I sat in the dust
watching the dizzypatterned
sluggishly still
writhing, rasping
free of the spade’s
shallow pan, leaving
ornate loops of black
blood in the pale
red sand and I could
see where the poison
pooled, occluded,
like vinegar in the tips
of its fangs as the slits
of its eyes stared
at nothing and its mouth
opened and closed
upon nothing, as if it
were trying to tell
a secret, yet nothing
coiled there to
speak it,


Acid Virga by Gabriel Kruis

From Acid Virga by Gabriel Kruis. Used with the permission of Archway Editions. Copyright © 2021 by Gabriel Kruis.

Gabriel Kruis
Gabriel Kruis
Gabriel Kruis is a New Mexican poet and educator living and writing in Brooklyn. He is a cofounder of Wendy's Subway Reading Room and his work has been published in A Perfect Vacuum, PEN America Poetry Series, OmniVerse, The Brooklyn Rail, Atlas Review, Frontier Poetry, among others.

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