Arrhythmia & the Diamondback

Years the sky has been coughing back
rain, and I am thirsty.
Here exists a wilderness whose blooms

you cannot hold in your fists, a hunger
you cannot cure in three swallows.
Even the sky is not so easily dazzled

by the sway of a lone branch,
paper birds burning in paper nests.
I swallow the heartbeat pills anyway.

They taste the way make-believe always does,
so much sugar and stir, tang and flush.
My skin retains a glow for hours.

Later a diamondback scuttles across the desert floor.
People comment on its beautiful truisms,
the prismatic patterns edged in moonlight.

In very dry seasons, the snake extracts water
from its prey. For seven nights, I dream
of hollow fangs, S-shaped defenses.

I forget how thirsty I am.

Bethany Carlson is an MFA candidate at Indiana University. Her poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Diagram, Night Train, Juked, Ruminate, Stirring, Wicked Alice, The Washington Square Review, and others. (

Boxcar Poetry Review - ISSN 1931-1761