The Year of the Snake

The shimenawa, sacred rope, hangs

from the shrine gate, white snake

growing heads at both ends—


the priest cuts it in half,

two snakes twisting

into the night.


The bonfire sucks stars into its red

throat; as we eat smoked eel

and icy tangerines, drink whiskey,


watch two snakes

entwine in embrace.

We dare not say to each other,


we are so like them:

one wounds, the other heals,

one heals, the other wounds.


When the bonfire goes dim,

we walk home,

turn out the lights,


sit with our legs coiled

around each other,

peel down our clothes


as if we could slither

out of ourselves, skins glinting

half-wet in the dark,


as if we could braid

ourselves back into a single

sacred rope.

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