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  • africmcglinchey

The thing itself

Updated: Jun 11




(8)

In the space between the termite-riddled wall and the draughty rafters

on a faraway farm, when I was four

coiled an invisible threat

turning and twisting, swarmish as bees.

On a faraway farm when I was four

the rustling and hissing wasn’t bees,

turning and twisting swarmishly,

and as I slept open-eyed, my father climbed into the attic.

The rustling and hissing wasn’t bees,

but a black mamba; he discharged a shot

as I slept open-eyed. My father climbed into the attic,

waited for its writing to cease, then measured eight foot.

But that was a black mamba! Today, he discharged a parting shot

in the space between front door and the street,

waited for our writhing to cease.

There might be a threat, he said, more invisible than a snake

today, in the space between front door and the street.

Coiled, a swarming threat.

There might be a threat, he said, more silent than a snake,

though we’re far from those termite-riddled walls and the draughty rafters.


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This is the eighth poem in a series of lockdown poems, funded by the Arts Council. With thanks to Jane Skovgaard for describing to me her childhood memory of a black mamba.

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