Seven serpents all in their own wicker baskets
Slithering, sleeping, curling and seeking
And a withered old man with skin
Red with ochre and brown with sun
Sits cross-legged on the dark earth floor of his hut
Each serpent has a name, from left to right they are
Andromeda, Cyrus, Diochenes, Libratti, Nigellus, Fordham and Justus.
Whichever found their way out first would be able to tell the old man something
About the world waiting ahead.
As the late afternoon sun baked the sparse shrubbery around his canvas tent,
Dyed orange and yellow and red by the clay and dirt and wind and rain and sun,
He waited and watched the seven wicker baskets.
Some shook occasionally, others stayed still the entire duration of the waiting.
But just as the bottom of the sun hit the edge of the horizon,
Fordham slipped his sleek, scaled face from the basket, flicked his tongue twice, and sailed smoothly between the two errant ***** of tent which held the entrance taut.
The old man released the souls of the other six from the bodies of the snakes
And gathered his travelling things;
A hat, a walking stick, and an old tanned sheep's bladder filled with spring water.
The hat spread out wide over his head,
And pooled in a large circular shadow far from his feet.
The sun was nearly set.
He began a thick, slow burning fire, and took his trail to the beach,
Thinking that it might be his last
Time ever seeing the ocean,
Listening to it speak.