What Creature

Brian Clifton
| poetry


John swept leaves into a pile on the porch.
Our neighbor turned the dirt


of her balcony planters with her hand trowel
and lined them with snakeskin—to scare off squirrels.


I saw their ghosts slither with the wind.
My mind exploded in secret.


Tenderness hardwired to tenderness breaks the body


down, throws its aches
into the spine while the earth cracks
its transistors and goes quiet.


In my head, I saw bodies slithering
through the piles of leaves,


the rot warming them. Once, I held a snake,
and it arced dark electricity


through the sunlight. The eternal static
encased in its skull. I asked, Do you feel it,
and he said, I feel it. What is it


that wires one body to another? And where
are the wires that pull a body back into the earth


where it grows tender and gone? Sometimes,
I think of leaves as sad sparks


coming back to their source. It was fall.
The snakeskins whipped in the background.


Somewhere, a body moved through
the dead. I could hear it—
the electric hiss of ripping skin


as a head breaks through the husk it once called itself.

Brian Clifton is an avid collector of records and curiosities. Their work can be found in: Pleiades, Beloit Poetry Journal, Quarterly West, Prairie Schooner, and other magazines.

The Sound of the Crashing
The Beast I Worship