by Luke Hankins

The two parts
                             of the decapitated copperhead
both live on—or seem to—
                                                       for minutes after the severing.
The body wrings itself,
                                                the mouth gapes on open air,
and then the blind tail writhes into
                                                                         the open mouth,
which bites down savagely
                                                        on its former self.
The body recoils and rolls in a vain attempt
                                                                                           to dislodge the teeth
that once fed it.
                                  The several members
                                                                                  of this body now met,
in opposition, a house divided
                                                                against itself—
                                                                                                  by shovel blade divided.
I will put enmity between you….
                                                                     He will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel.
                                                           How greatly fallen
this mighty house
                                      of bone, organ, muscle, and fang,
warred on by a man afraid of poison.
                                                                            What triumph does he feel
in living to see
                                the serpent biting its own heel?

LUKE HANKINS is the author of a collection of poems, Weak Devotions, and a collection of essays, The Work of Creation: Selected Prose. He is the editor of Poems of Devotion: An Anthology of Recent Poets, and a collection of his translations from the French of Stella Vinitchi Radulescu, A Cry in the Snow & Other Poems, is forthcoming from Seagull Books. Hankins is the founder and editor of Orison Books, a non-profit literary press focused on the life of the spirit from a broad and inclusive range of perspectives. He also serves as Senior Editor at Asheville Poetry Review.