Snake Handling
Joshua Martin

Snake Handling

Mark 16:17-18, Acts 28:1-6

Because of the present rain,
              and because of the cold,

a viper rises from a wicker basket,
              coils around a preacher’s shovel-spent hands

as simple pews bear the weight
              of the now-standing faithful.

Here, where land slopes like gaunt cheekbones,
              they shall take up serpents,

call upon He-who-moves-them as venom
              drips from fang to wrist,

as the preacher’s words begin
              to tangle like calves in barbed-wire,

and the serpent, tempted by neck-flesh,
              heeds its own holy call to strike. 

Screams of children, thud of dropped Bibles:
              The air turns thick with disbelief as man

and snake writhe on the dusty floor,
              as the congregation stumbles back

toward their shacks, knowing nothing now
              can cast out devils from their bodies

and fields—from the mines
              they must descend come Monday.

Joshua Martin

is a Ph.D. student in poetry at Georgia State University and the author of the chapbook Passing Through Meat Camp (Flutter Press). He was a finalist in the 2015 Jacar Press Chapbook Competition, and his recent poems appear, or will soon appear, in Soundings Review, San Pedro River Review, Concho River Review, Kentucky Review, I-70 Review, Iodine Poetry Journal, Kakalak 2015, and other magazines.