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The Ghost of Marlin Perkins Visits Me Wearing a Copperhead

The kind of snake that almost bit my father when he was a boy,
draped around Marlin’s shoulders and braceleting his ashen arms.

Do you remember, he asks, how our cameras showed the predator
make the kill? How you’d root for the cheetah, no matter how pitiful

the gazelle? And I do. Blood was the truth of it. Prides of lions
muzzle-deep in bright entrails. Claws to muscle, teeth to bone.

When I was a zookeeper, he tells me, I curated the herpetarium.
Cottonmouths, Gaboon vipers, blue racers from my Missouri home.

And I know. I was a snake child, too. My fourth grade teacher
kept a rattler in her basement, let me hold the gentle corn snake

she brought to show our class. I hunted wild garter snakes
in prairie-dogged fields. Fed them on minnows and worms.

You know, he says, lifting the copperhead off his spectral neck,
one hand still gripped firm behind its triangular head, we never

did find that Yeti, Sir Edmund and I. What do you imagine is out there
in the world, that we haven’t yet seen? I think of the depths of oceans,

shy crowns of trees, small insects nearly invisible to the human eye.
And I want to respond, but then the wolves start up, their voices wild

in the kingdom of the dark. Ah, he says, they’re calling me back.
As Marlin turns to go, the copperhead loosens, darts its tongue

through the notch of its lips, readies its venomous fangs. And I
can’t help but be riveted, waiting for the animal instinct of its bite.






Clade Song Right
Brittney Corrigan

Brittney Corrigan is the author of the poetry collections DaughtersBreakingNavigation, and 40 Weeks. Solastalgia, a collection of poems about climate change, extinction, and the Anthropocene Age, is forthcoming from JackLeg Press in 2022. Brittney was raised in Colorado and has lived in Portland, Oregon for the past three decades, where she is an alumna and employee of Reed College. She is currently at work on her first short story collection. For more information, visit