Take this crime: I carried the alligator
home through red mangroves, in my arms. His gnarled head
cool against my neck, and his tail around me
brushing my ankles.
Brought inside the village, he shivered, needing
swamp not land. My body would never keep him
warm enough. I offered him strips of birch bark,
rabbits and quail eggs —
anything. I knew it was wrong to bring him
here; he could devour you, the children, clawing
flesh and cotton, swinging his heavy tail hard,
breaking to pieces
doors and chairs. So drown me in shallow water,
hold me under, finish this need for pebbled
hide, and let me open in marsh, go floating
after the sawgrass.
“Reptilian” first appeared in Denver Quarterly (Volume 39, #3).