by Cornelia Rohde
“He is upon the Wheel as we are—a life ascending or descending—very far from deliverance. Great evil must the soul have done that is cast into this shape,” said the Lama to Kim.
Rudyard Kipling, Kim
No meat on him, nor in his mouth.
Skin leather-tough, scaly as a turtle.
On his head an old palm hat
Miss Ilma’d plaited out of pity.
No wife nor kin to share
his crooked clapboard house:
privy out back, no pump,
dirt floors and vermin.
His neighbors pinch their noses.
Kids taunt him. His harsh curses
send them scattering. They call
him a curmudgeon, or call him worse.
His watermelons ripen
on his Crown Land plot.
He piles his skiff with weighty fruit,
rows back across the channel.
Makes fast his line; readies to hurl.
One by one, heads smash on the dock
in shattered bleeding shards.
That un’s Ole Pot, that un’s Crazy Boy, that un’s Jack.
The church takes his land for a parking lot.
He hides in the bush in a makeshift hut.
His slingshot drops a bird to eat.
But that bud is a yellow snake.
De bud is a speerit.
De bud sings,
Go carry me home.
So he takes him out.
Go an’ make up yer fire.
Come an’ cook me now.
He done eat. One bone lef.
Go lay on yer mat.
When they come, he is
stiff as a mast, down and dead.
They find a yellow snake
coiled under his bed.