At heart my father
was a naturalist.

He took my trembling hand
and told it to catch garter snakes

to slither as I slept
on the bedside table

to eat as I gagged
hands empty of crickets

to drink as I squeezed eyes shut
to still my glass-shattering chest

to doze as I coughed
that I was too sick to live anymore

to laugh as I shrieked
when I caught sight at midnight

to bathe as I glimpsed
the scales ruffle in sunlight

to eat as I examined
frozen pinkies squeezed down the tube body

to drink as I stared at
the great forked tongue dance

to sleep as I watched
the pretzel folds

to slither away as I waved goodbye
when my father told me

I was no longer afraid
because I loved them enough.

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