Em Palughi

Taking Up Serpents

In her prime she was a
……….preacher killer in West Virginia,

Men would hold her aloft,
……….keeled scales lit in dim church light,

……….……….Shake her to a gospel beat,

And beg God to keep her
……….from striking them down,

……….……….Trying to pray her cottonmouth closed.

I’m on a field trip when I see her,
……….Retired now, old and fat on frozen mice,

……….……….Lounging lazy on her electric hot-rock.

They wouldn’t let us close.
……….She nosed up the glass and

……….……….it seemed she spoke to me:

Child, why do you hesitate
……….
to strike those who shake you?

 

My Father Wanted a Boy,

I could tell by the way
he slapped me between the shoulder blades

when I sank up to my knees in
riverbank mud, or tore

the heads off ruby crawfish
and noisily sucked out the meat.

we’d clean catfish on the tailgate,
scrape out the liver and

fry up what’s left, the stink
and the scales would stick to my hands

and shine in the humid bright
like nothing else

and I’m no man, but there’s gold leaf
mixed in the dirt underneath my fingernails,

and nobody but him
thought to mine for it.

 

Adytum

……….The innermost sanctuary of an ancient Greek temple.
……….Latin, from Greek aduton, ‘impenetrable.’

i told him
i do not want to do this, not here
and the rushing of blood in my ears
must have drowned me out,
because he kept on coaxing,
flat eyes focused somewhere
behind me.
i tried to think of
greek temples,
and how maybe,
if that’s where we were,
a vengeful goddess would hear me
and would turn my hair to cottonmouths.
unlucky for me i was
in the basement of a baptist church
in hoover, alabama
and i knew only fragments of
a single prayer,
and as i stared at
beige popcorn ceiling i recited,
if i should die before i wake,
i am safe while in thy sight…

© Em Palughi

Em Palughi is an undergraduate student attending Goucher College where they are majoring in creative writing. They are a Kratz award winner and new aspiring poet. They grew up on the Gulf Coast of Alabama, and hope to go to graduate school for library science.

Back to Main Loch Raven Review Site