The Snake Doctors

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Aviation

Nothing is lonelier than what’s human: a group of them
at work or play is enough
to send a shiver through
my differences. Especially
up North where windows ignite early,
hanging the dark
with inner lives like tiny drive-in screens
showing underrated grade B stars,
and bingo-playing ladies
hover, intent as air controllers,
above their cards in social halls.
At tables long as football fields, they acquire
a taste for the metallic:
coins, flat Coke; and Bic lighters
puff like the souls of exclamation
points as winners collect
their macrame plant cradles.
I attended once and know
that by the end a gray funk
plaques the air, dense enough to choke a poet
or a pit pony.
But for the cold life you can’t do better

than a 6 X 6 mobile hut defined against snow
only by its black trim, like felt-
tip on bond, or lacking trim,
perishing into a blank
square suspended from transmission wires.
Where inside, anglers ease lines through floor-
holes and the river underneath
is gauntleted with hooks to snag tomcod.
By day’s end, window ledges bubble
with gleanings: bagged in plastic, the catch
curves like primitive spoons brimful
with a light blurry as the light
through tears. And let me add the certain loneliness

of looking at the snow-
shoe maker: a plump woman in brogues, dark socks,
bifocals, who fixes herself on a frame of ash,
weaving cowhide through its tear-shape.
Who sits, hemmed by maritime
light shed from a window view
of moonish pasture and fishing
boats in their complicated ice-bound
ropes. It takes shoes like blow-ups
of lace, of butterfly veins,
to suspend hunters and lovers
above the delicacies of snow.
I admire her staid aviation
but think she’d have no use for me.
I can tell a snowshoe from a crosse only

because I saw one all-women’s match:
the Maliotenam Indian Reserve
versus Ursula’s Body Shop.
High colors tussled with the white.
Knowing nothing of the sport,
I was surprised at how important it seemed:
a ball going win or lose
from net to net, flimsy webs
against the shifty air.

(Alice Fulton, 1987)

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