A bag fell to the ground and two snakes spilled out, thin and writhing, poisonous.
In the panic of feet that followed, the snakes drew themselves up into their own heads, flaring like a lizard’s ruff, the palest violet. The ruff became wings, like butterflies’, and they rose in flight.
Flying poisonous snakes.
The panic escalated, everyone screaming and covering their heads. We were all so afraid. And tangled.
One of the snakes flicked against me, caught on my upper arm, my protective shoulder, bit. I felt the sting and the slow spreading burn. I tried to brush it off of me, to make it stop, but it was no use. A warm heaviness crept over me.
I asked the snake why he had poisoned me.
“It’s not poison. It’s an invitation to be still and listen.”
“You want to talk?”
“You need to listen.”
“What will you say to me?”
“Hush now, listen.”
I did what I could then. I became an empty basin. I gave myself to the stillness of listening to silence.
The basin filled with water, cool and black and deep. Light and wind fancied the surface but the deep kept to itself, a great mystery, teeming with life. I saw the snakes in the water, twined in a double helix.
I thought, “It’s about who I am, at the very core.” I thought, “I am this.”
That’s when Buffalo Man found me.