Donna MasiniUSAWriting2011

I watched a snake once, swallow a rabbit.
Fourth grade, the reptile zoo
the rabbit stiff, nose in, bits of litter stuck to its fur,

its head clenched in the wide
jaws of the snake, the snake
sucking it down its long throat.

All throat that snake--I couldn't tell
where the throat ended, the body
began. I remember the glass

case, the way that snake
took its time (all the girls, groaning, shrieking
but weren't we amazed, fascinated,

saying we couldn't look, but looking, weren't we
held there, weren't we
imagining--what were we imagining?)

Mrs. Peterson urged us to move on girls,
but we couldn't move. It was like
watching a fern unfurl, a minute

hand move across a clock. I didn't know why
the snake didn't choke, the rabbit never
moved, how the jaws kept opening

wider, sucking it down, just so
I am taking this in, slowly,
taking it into my body:

this grief. How slow
the body is to realize.
You are never coming back.


My mother is scissoring strips of paper bag,
fringing the edges, stapling layers of feathery brown to an old

jacket, then, rings glinting on her wedding finger,
whisks the scissor up each ribbon of fringe, tricks it to curl, to turn

my brother into an owl. It’s fall in the late
sixties. Late afternoon. She zips him in. Now this

sudden rush into another fall. You can see it in the invisible
exclamation points shooting through everything:

Wind! Trees! Shaky mums! The city’s lousy with academics
a man on Houston Street says to what appears to be his date. Suddenly it’s cold

to dine outside. In the open window of Paradise Thai two women lean across their   flickering
candle, glasses of bright wine. A chilly tableau framed by night, a lustrous couple

of inscrutable statues, pineapple crowns rising into spires. At this point everything   is still possible.
I wish they could see this. The moonlit spires. Their lustrous doubles.

Every time, every single time I’ve followed desire,
my friend said last night, pressing her palms on my kitchen table, every time:

Disaster. Its late. The babysitter will be fifty dollars.
Moon! Time! Fifty dollars! What an expensive movie.

Sometimes we walk out of ourselves, blinking into the indifferent
light, pulling our sweaters tighter, unprotected, regressed from our time

in the dark, the crowd snaking through the lobby, watching us, eager to enter
what we have left. We’re always waiting for the next thing

to change us. Facelifts, my ex-husband said last week, the new cure
for migraine. Light flickered its misty nimbus, his face breaking up. I held my head.

Jews have over twenty-five words for schmo, I said, apropos
of nothing. After so much pain, imagine

we can laugh. Though if you think in anagrams,
parades and drapes, diapers, rape, despair and aspire

all come out of paradise.
What was my mother thinking

as she made my brother an owl, as an ordinary man
and woman leaned toward one another at a railway station table, away

from their marriages, across our TV screen, entering
the movie, heading into, then averting, perhaps, disaster. Perhaps.

We feel change coming. Season of exclamation points.
Fringy mums shaking their yellow frazzle!

Last week, still summer, the young attendant in the designer jeans store
held out our change, announced the world

will end in 2012. According to the Mayan calendar.
So we might as well, he said, keep drinking the plastic

bottles of Poland Spring. Well, it’s a doggy-dog world
as my sister says. My friend throws up her arms,

waves her bag of jeans. Her free alterations. Look how much we’ve done
in just a few minutes! Look how we wait

for something to change us: love, jeans, a “Train of Thought”
hanging in the subway car: As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning

from uneasy dreams he found himself
transformed, etc. What did he dream? Did we find out?

Why remember the creature but not the dream?
What was my brother thinking as he flapped and whoo’d

across that stage? Whoo whoo whoo, he hooted for days.
Whoo whoo whoo