Submit your work, meet writers and drop the ads. Become a member
Jan 2010
Since fifty-eight
the jaycees come
rounding up rattlers
in Sweetwater, folk from all over
for a weekend in March
when snakes leave the hibernaculum
and slide back up
into west Texas and the wind.

Mr. Herrera knew his Luis and I
rode the seven-thirty bus,
had cokes and potato chip sandwiches
with Mitchell and Thomas
after Sunday school,
shot jackrabbits that ate alfalfa
in the dairy pastures.

Dad said he reckoned,
so I took Mr. Herrera’s apron
and offer and brought my knife
that Luis sharpened to a razor
and shaved his forearm hairs with.  
Frank tried that once,
sliced himself like a tomato
when he slipped.

Snake shop’s a butchery,
down the main street
past the dairy mart
and primary school,
in the yellow open scrub.  
If buzzards had noses like dogs
they’d flock, smell that
snake blood from Mexico.

Rattlesnake skinning
is all stringy guts, soft skin,
pulled teeth and poison
squeezed out of gum sockets
like milk from an old cow’s ****.  
Fancy skins with eyeholes
and lips cost ten,
specialty of Mr. Herrera.
Headless strip plus rattle
just two dollars the foot.
Cut the belly lengthwise
and rip,
easy near the backbone
where it catches.  

Out-of-towners buy anything.
Wallets, boots, belts with snakeskin
sewed or tacked on,
lucky rattles, picture frames
for proof of their longest catch.  
God-fearing jaycees doing good
for our communities will eat
deep-fried snake meat,
like tough old chicken,
but good with black-eyed peas
and sweet tea on the side.  

The women even come
once the round-up is done,
the church women, the Jesus women
with belief
and pistachio pudding
with marshmallows,
like Mrs. Howard
who shrieked “Boyd!”
and lectured about hygiene
when she saw me in my apron
and ****** to my elbows,
menacing the street.  

The biggest round-up days
we worked late, past midnight.
Past the dairy mart hours,
so once the skins
were all peeled and stretched
and the sticky linoleum
hosed down some,
Luis and I walked back through town,
deserted, dark

except lights from Roscoe and Roby
and even big Abilene
miles away, shining
across the flat nothing,
coyotes yip yip yipping
somewhere near the lake farther north.

Luis showed me how to eat peanuts
shells and all
and let me try on his brother’s
high school letter jacket.  
Late night in Sweetwater is a nothing.  
The wind never stops blowing,
and there’s nobody else
on the ******* planet.
Written by
Ruby Harrison
     D Conors
Please log in to view and add comments on poems