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by Carrie Vaccaro Nelkin


I shake the vipers from my hair.
Surprised and fat,
they thud atop my feet,
watch me dress and smooth my face,
flick black tongues
to taste intent.
Panic glitters in their eyes.
I bend and scoop
them close, brush soft dry scales
with quivering lips, kiss
beaded eyes,
lick tips of fangs.
I meet the world
without you as my skin,
I say, and maybe it will treat me well
and maybe not. Either way,
I know who I am.


They shimmer
as I weave them into shape,
an anarchy of thrust and reel,
a supple, seething birthright.
Mine to wear or not.
Twelve coil, six more spit fire,
another dips below my eye
and taps me nose to cheek.
I kiss you too, I say,
then tuck it back into my hair.
The cool skin glides beneath my hand.
Their weight and zeal
hold me high today,
and I will turn
the thieving world to stone,
or not. Either way,
it will know
who I am.

* * *

Carrie Vaccaro Nelkin is author of the novel Snare. Her short fiction has appeared in various publications, including Supernatural Tales, Luna Station Quarterly, Rose Red Review, Fiction Vortex, and the anthologies Skulls & Crossbones: Tales of Women Pirates and Elements: Tales from the Substratum. She’s had poetry published in Third Wednesday, Connecticut River Review, Corvus Review, Poetry Quarterly, and other journals. You can find her at, on Twitter at @cvnelkin, and on Facebook: Carrie Vaccaro Nelkin, Author.

What inspires you to write and keep writing?

I’ve written as far back as I can remember, so I guess it’s in my DNA. As to what keeps me writing, maybe ultimately it’s mortality, the awareness that we have such a short time on this earth, and the poignancy of that. Writing somehow makes that easier to bear.