one of the best I ever had
said she could help but this scared me —
We had just met, and she couldn't see
the cage inside my chest
where black snakes knotted and twisted
like those at a strip shopping mall
when I was three and it rained hard,
so that the fair was cancelled
and men and women were busy
loading animals back into trucks.
I stood in a puddle watching the black snakes
lie quietly in their wire crate,
the rainbow-oily water still
and fresh. I was afraid,
but couldn't move away,
until my mother pulled me towards the car.
What will you do when your fingertips
brush the wire mesh and the snakes
pull and glide against each other,
a knot of rippling skin?
I will help you if I can.
Michelle Maher's poems have appeared in journals including The Georgetown Review, Atlanta Review, Chautauqua Literary Journal, and U.S. 1 Worksheets. In 2012, she won the Patricia Dobler Poetry Award given by Carlow University, with Toi Derricotte acting as judge. She is an English professor at La Roche College. She lives in Wexford. Many writers featured in Chapter & Verse are guests of Prosody, produced by Jan Beatty and Ellen Wadey. Prosody airs every Saturday morning on 90.5 FM.