Young Snakes

This poem was sparked by overhearing my daughters’ imaginative play, and being struck by their syntax and world-building. On the page is the tension of being both my children’s protector and, at times, the cause of their hurt, and the grief that comes with this knowledge.

My daughters make young snakes
          from the lilac yarn
                  they dip into bathwater,
watching them become floss
                          and wearing them as if hair

                  I scoop each child from the water 
                                  and perch behind their blonde heads,
                  working the brush’s bristles through
                          until I hit a knot
                  and do the hurtful work
                                  of separation

I am turned to stone
          with every ratted tangle,
                  their small crowns whipping out of reach
from the pulling pain

          My hand hovers in air
                  to release the stolen strands
let loose from their roots,
          limp serpents
                  blending into the woodgrain 
          like blonde scales hidden in sand

I imagine their hair as fierce vipers
          fanged against the warm-blooded world,
                          and some days it is impossible
          not to feel complicit 
                  in the erosion of power
          each girl first holds inside the nest of her body,

until it hardens into stone and drops
          from the body like a severed head

Quinn Rennerfeldt is a queer poet, parent, and partner earning her MFA at SFSU. Their work can be found in Cleaver, SAND, elsewhere, Salamander, Fractured Lit, and Flash Frog. Her chapbook, demigoddess semi lustrous will be published by dancing girl press in Fall 2023. They are a reader for Split Lip Magazine and Flash Fiction Magazine.



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