Issue Forty-Four - Summer 2024


By Elizabeth Landrum

Not like a garter snake discarding
his soiled patterned jacket of
diamonds and stripes
multiple times a year,
unzipping his skin to
pull himself through,
inch by inch, in one
slow slithering wriggle,
scales unfolding from lip
and chin to tail, scraping through
rough rock tunnels to strip away
the dulled confinement, then
stretching, he flexes free,
to inhabit his slick fresh coat.

Not like the thin slivers of bark
that surround the Pacific yew —
gray scales peeling away in stages
measured by decades, like pages
weathered and torn, exposing
the red beneath to breathe
green air. Not like this
pas de deux—the curl,
the twist and push,
the unwitnessed
Now habitat,
now humus,
now life.

No, ours is a continuous invisible shift.
Forty thousand cells a day
slough to dust we inhale
or simply sweep away. Each month, each cell
replaced — palms, cheeks, shoulders,
fingertips reborn for the stroking.
Transformations while we sleep and
silent exchanges made in the quickstep dance
we all do together — you in your given skin,
me in my white protective shell.

(Previously published in Still Life, 2021)

Copyright 2024 Landrum