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?)
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.
“Slowly” by Donna Masini, from Turning to Fiction. © W.W. Norton.