by Donna M. Davis

My mother told me that
to pick the bluest berries
the dark of purplest veins,
you had to run from snakes—
a zig-zag course,
a crooked half mile,
a dodge of dirt and stones.

They were never far behind,
a sinuous thread of brown or black.
She felt it in her ears,
a deep pulse through the leaves,
a common breathing poison.

Years later, she complained
about the pain in her chest
as she lay dying in a hospital bed,
her heart blocked by clogged passages.
She told me she’d just dreamed
of snakes stuffed in a jar,
exploding into flame
and broken glass pieces.

I knew this time
she couldn’t run away
or dodge the pain inside her,
as the ribbons of flesh uncoiled
and struck, at last.

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