“Next to You, Permanence” by Elizabeth Jacobson
I wrapped the corpse of a juvenile bull snake I found on the road
around a slender branch of a young aspen tree,
coiling it into three even loops. The fluid
from the snake’s body collected in its head,
which swelled to many times its normal size.
The next day, flies covered the body so thickly
I could not tell a snake was what they clung to.
On the third day, the snake hung like jerky from its branch,
the coils undone,
the skin split in places where delicate white bones pushed through.
This is what I was hoping for,
skin dropping away without a scent,
a helix of bones to set on my desk,
next to phantasms of you.
On the fourth day, when the snake began to move,
bulges under its desiccated skin rippled
like small hearts toward a new home
and I saw what was dead about the snake
had become the maggots of new life—
that the span from a seed to the echo of what does
not change— is unbearable.
Originally published in Orion Magazine
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Elizabeth Jacobson Artist Statement:
Elizabeth Jacobson is the author of a chapbook, A Brown Stone (Dancing Girl Press), and a full
length collection, Her Knees Pulled In (Tres Chicas Books). She is the founding director of the
WingSpan Poetry Project which conducts poetry classes at local shelters. WingSpan has received
a Community Partnership award from the Esperanza Shelter for Battered Families and a grant
from the Witter Bynner Foundation. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in many print and
on-line publications, most recently American Poetry Review, Orion Magazine, Hinchas de Poesia
and Plume. She is the recipient of the Mountain West Writers’ Award from Western Humanities
Review, The Jim Sagel Prize for Poetry from Puerto del Sol, a grant from New Mexico Literary
Arts, and an MFA from Columbia University. This fall she will be teaching at the Santa Fe
Community College and at the Ghost Ranch Writing Festival in Abiquiu, New Mexico.