Snake Oil, Snake Bite

By Dilruba Ahmed Dilruba Ahmed
They staunched the wound with a stone.
They drew blue venom from his blood
            until there was none.
When his veins ran true his face remained
lifeless and all the mothers of the village
wept and pounded their chests until the sky
             had little choice
but to grant their supplications. God made
             the boy breathe again.

God breathes life into us, it is said,
only once. But this case was an exception.
God drew back in a giant gust and blew life into the boy
and like a stranded fish, he shuddered, oceanless.

It was true: the boy lived.
He lived for a very long time. The toxins
were an oil slick: contaminated, cleaned.
But just as soon as the women
kissed redness back into his cheeks
the boy began to die again.
He continued to die for the rest of   his life.
The dying took place slowly, sweetly.
The dying took a very long time.

Source: Poetry (November 2013).

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This poem originally appeared in the November 2013 issue of Poetry magazine

November 2013
 Dilruba  Ahmed

Biography

Dilruba Ahmed is the author of Dhaka Dust (Graywolf, 2011), winner of the Bakeless Literary Prize for poetry awarded by the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. Her poetry has appeared in Blackbird, Cream City Review, New England Review, New Orleans Review, and Indivisible: Contemporary South Asian American Poetry

Of her first book, a Hyphen Magazine reviewer observed, “What’s so promising about Dhaka Dust is precisely that Ahmed . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poems by Dilruba Ahmed

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Death, Time & Brevity, Youth, Religion, God & the Divine, Mythology & Folklore, Fairy-tales & Legends

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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