Grant Clauser, four poems

The Neighbor Killed Snakes

Each spring they swarmed the Jehovah woman's garden,

ten or twenty a day, hundreds in the length of a week.

Somewhere from an underground nest, they bust forth

like weeds, bamboo shoots you can't keep down.

And in the afternoon sun, before her daughters

got home from school, she'd chop them

one by one with a shovel, or crush their heads

with the heel of her gardening boots, trouble

their tiny bones into red and blue stains

then leave them for her husband to clean up.

I'd find the strays he missed, broken backs

with their heads still on, tongues forking in and out

and try to save them, take them home, hide

their bloody stripes in the shrubs around our garden

until one day she caught me, told my dad, called me little devil

for stealing, called me sick for playing with death,

that I'd always been that boy in the neighborhood,

the one caught with blood on his hands.

Fishing with Ghosts

Lowlands around the creek

are all jack-in-the-pulpit and fern.

Dod arranges rocks into a circle,

raises a fire from ash we left behind.