the cloistered peace of a nun’s bed—to stretch nights
on its thin mattress, over its spare metal frame, her cell

silent and otherwise empty, its bare walls white
as chalk—and to sleep my whole life wrapped like

the body of a slim snake, all muscle and skin, around
the body of another snake? When I was a poor kid,

a second life glittered, shone and vanished at intervals
too quick to clutch. What I wanted, what I understood

I couldn’t touch. But what was to hand? I put my
hand on it, in my narrow bed, afternoons I begged off

middle school or nights I lay awake, waiting for the house
to go quiet, eyes on the fat moon through the window,

that distant light, and my body lit up, creature just born,
it seemed, from beckoning. I had such patience then,

faith of the supplicant or the nomad in the woods
—furred or naked—wanting heat. I’d never seen the face

of God or yet made fire by rubbing sticks or flanks
until they spark, but I’d heard tales of clasped or moving

hands dispelling dark. The gathering ache between
my legs and the lips I’d conjured, kissing mine, made me

believe I’d have myself and love. But is this why lovers
fear we’ll leave? Not Helen ferried to the far shore or Eve

fed sweetness by some other hand—but hers? It’s true.
A woman self-possessed commands a moveable

feast, and I’m the kind of beast who might live simply,
coming and coming, in my solitary cave. It’s a thing I crave

and those coiled bodies, too. Want still shimmers, these
years later: to warm my hands on self and, other, you.



Melissa Crowe