Unmeasurable Distance Spanning Between Us by Suzette Bishop


“Unmeasurable Distance Spanning Between Us” by Suzette Bishop


I wonder if my Pokanoket ancestor
Would tell me it’s good there’s a rattlesnake in my ceiling duct,
Scold me for not helping it escape,
Just leaving it there to disappear or die,
Remind me I’m the invader,
My condo complex, most of North Laredo, open ranch land
When we first moved here over twenty years ago.
McMansions, posh apartment complexes, and strip malls crowd
Everything out, now.

Or maybe she’d tell me, Be grateful it’s eating mice, rats,
Whatever else is up in the attic,
Pray while hearing them gassed out of the rocks
A few towns over, where they are paraded, handled,
And killed to a rattling rhythm they feel but can’t hear.

Or perhaps she’d tell me a story about the giant horned lake snake
Leaving me to infer what snakes and my inaction mean,
Or lament I didn’t thank, catch, and then eat it,
Studying its scale pattern first
For finger weavings, its flexible skin so waterproof,
Not something to be wasted, not loved.

I don’t really know what she’d tell me, if anything,
That side of my family exiled itself after marrying the settlers.
The stories learned during childhood, during daily life together,
Their meanings sacred, protected,
Are sacks of seeds buried in the ground during Winter.
We won’t recover them.

I do know snakes like my visitor would rather rustle away,
Be someplace warm, digest,
And I remember playing in Northeastern woods,
Building a house with a boy between two sturdy trunks,
Wandering well-worn paths,
Maybe hunting routes,
Hearing the living, swaying canopy.

It was all I wanted, where I felt the most at home,
Where we never saw a snake
Because they stayed beneath the leaf fall,
Where I see her gathering bull rushes
From the dried creek bed for matting.


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Suzette Bishop Artist Statement: Suzette Bishop teaches at Texas A&M International University in Laredo, Texas. She has published three books of poetry, Hive Mind , Horse Minded, and She Took Off Her Wings and Shoes, and a chapbook, Cold Knife Surgery. Her poems have appeared in many journals, including Jellyfish Whispers, Free State Review, New Texas, Borderlands, Concho River Review, Journal of Texas Women Writers, Aries, and in the anthologies The Four Seasons Anthology, Imagination & Place: An Anthology, The Virago Book of Birth Poetry, and American Ghost: Poets on Life after Industry. Her poems have won the Spoon River Poetry Review Editors’ Prize Contest and Honorable Mention in the Pen 2 Paper Contest sponsored by the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities. In addition to teaching, she has given workshops for gifted children, senior citizens, writers on the US-­‐Mexico border, at-­‐risk youth, and for an afterschool arts program serving a rural Hispanic community.

Author: A Room of Her Own

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