The mason jar of rattlesnake heads refracted the light in the yellow brine while the speech teacher grabbed my head from behind and etched syllables into my jaw with his thumb and orange fingernails. Instead of words, I drew. The few lines I managed slithered across the page and got him spouting off, toting his kills. He said while clearing ivy he found those three diamondbacks curled in a black oak stump. He took the first two with a quick flick of blade, but jerked the third up behind the eyes, jaws wide, and listened close to its mouth move in muscled force to the shake of tail— each rattle another syllable. He cracked its body like wet rope and took his prizes in an uncovered hand: the heads, the rattles that shook like rain sticks. When the story ended, and he had my head in his hands, he said Speak for me, boy. Let me hear something nice from you.

JOEL FERDON is pursuing an MFA in poetry at McNeese State University. Born and raised in Moreno Valley, California, he now calls Charlotte, NC, his home. His poems have appeared in Cold Mountain Review and elsewhere. He has been a contributor at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and nominated for a Pushcart Prize.