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Poetry

Pastor Among Suspects
in Illegal Snake Bust

Amy Holman

Venomous snakes seized in an undercover sting, AP indulges.
42 copperheads, 11 timber rattlesnakes, one western
diamondback rattlesnake, one fundamentalist pastor, two cobras,
one puff adder, nine true believers, and three cottonmouth
water moccasins. This reminds me of a telephone call

one evening in which my mother spoke of an ancestor—one
of the Virginia Ironmongers—who taught himself
Spanish by pinning words and phrases onto his sleeves as he
tilled the soil, and then went to Mexico as an interpreter
for Maximillian, until the government fell to mayhem,

and he escaped, but then, wading waist deep in the bayou,
he saw a water moccasin approaching. After escaping
that dull earth for better conversations in a decadent dictatorship,
he was to end in a swamp. He paid attention one last time,
watching the water moccasin swiftly swimming

with her head above water while the water moccasin watching
his mad green eyes fixed on her thought better of it,
and changed course. Eureka! So this Ironmonger spent the rest
of his his days working sideshows and churches, bit only
17 times. I'm scanning the Maximillians in my

encyclopedia as my mother relays her favorite part of an incredible
story I have never heard. What was his name? Oh, I don't
know, she said, Thomas. This is one of those tales chosen to reveal
the cultivated loner in a pasture of dullards doing anything to
get free, when the dullards wade through our

bloodstream, too. Still, records show that my great-great uncle,
Frank, Jr., was tried as a spy when he was 11 and almost
executed before escape, serving as courier right up to Appamatox;
these Ironmongers had gusto. Kentucky Fish & Wildlife
charged Pastor Coots for buying, selling, and

possessing illegal reptiles, many purchased off the World Wide Web
and kept in houses crawling with children. You can purchase
anything off the internet except common sense, sayeth the zoo keeper.
No, that's traded for glory—where's your boy gone to?—
when claiming the fallow fields.

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