by Emily Banks

Before a snake sheds skin, she goes half blind

for just a week or two. The fluid she excretes,

a grey-white lubricant to ease the slide,

pools under the scale of each eye

like warm milk filling up a metal spoon.

When the world blurs,

she searches out a rough surface

to rub against, loosening first

the old skin from her head, where it will split,

then working down. If done correctly,

the skin should come off in one easy piece,

a hollow tube of flimsy wax paper, a shroud of self

like the seat of jeans you’ve worn all week,

that absence so distinct.

I used to find them at the summer house,

not snakes but just their skin,

outside the bolted wooden door that led

to a dark cellar pit. I wanted to pick them up,

to see through them the world in sepia

cut into diamonds, or press them flat

over my own skin like a graft

to harden its texture. My mother warned me

I could catch salmonella, so I only looked, and pulled

the iron latch up, stared inside for any sign

of coiling against the blackness, stirring dust,

or straining moon-grey eyes.