Next to You, Permanence

I wrapped the corpse of a juvenile bull snake I found on the road
around a slender branch of a young aspen tree,
coiling it into three even loops. The fluid
from the snake’s body collected in its head,
which swelled to many times its normal size.
The next day, flies covered the body so thickly
I knew, but could not tell,
a snake was what they clung to.
On the third day, the snake hung like jerky from its branch,
the coils undone,
the skin split in places where delicate white bones pushed through.
This is what I was hoping for,
skin dropping away without a scent,
a helix of white bones to set on my desk,
next to phantasms of you.
On the fourth day, when the snake began to move,
bulges under its desiccated skin rippled
like small hearts toward a new home,
I understood that what was dead about the snake
had become the maggots of new life,
and that the distance from a seed
to the echo of what does not change
is unbearable.

Elizabeth Jacobson directs the WingSpan Poetry Project and has work forthcoming in American Poetry Review, Hinchas De Poesia, and Plume. She teaches in New Mexico and Florida.