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Image by Patrick Tomasso


A Woodpile Full of Snakeskins

All summer, this tarp has covered the last

of last year’s woodpile, weighted down

with logs growing fungi and crumbling

back to earth. I toss the logs aside and pull

gently, backing up, alert to what I know

might be there: a copperhead or rattler

keeping warm, mice delivering themselves,

like dinner served on a plate.


Beneath the tarp, the wood is dry. Between

the lengths of split wood, so many snakeskins.

No snakes that I can see, but they’ve left this piece

of themselves behind, perhaps relieved to shed

used skins against rough firewood. Deepest itch

scratched and cast off. They drape like ribbons

twined, pale gray and gossamer, nearly flakes,

still holding the shape of snake.


What does it feel like to discard one’s old skin,

to take on this troubled world renewed, to slither

close to the ground, all muscle and flexibility?

All autumn, my cats scratch, their fur and dander

flying while my nose itches and runs. I’d like

to know a serpent’s viewpoint, to be cold blooded,

throw off my old bindings to emerge shining,

improved, unable to be afraid.

Joan Mazza has worked as a medical microbiologist, psychotherapist, seminar leader, and is the author of six self-help psychology books, including Dreaming Your Real Self (Penguin/Putnam). Her work has appeared in Atlanta Review, Prairie Schooner, The MacGuffin, Poet Lore, Slant, and The Nation. She lives in rural central Virginia.

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