Where I come from
snakes were treated with respect.
My first encounter with clogged drains
was when I saw my father
bent naked in the shower
behind the neighbor's whimpering dog.
He grabbed the curtains
and told me not to look.
For years we never spoke about it.

Next, a boy in kindergarten
told me to look while he flushed
his Mickey Mouse underwear down the toilet.
The school charged my parents for damages.
They didn't speak to me for years.

In junior high I danced
with an older man - a plumber
who enjoyed making me watch
while he worked inside strange houses.
That year I learned everything I never
wanted to know about drains.
After him, I stopped handling snakes.

By the time I married
the post master next door I had learned
to pick up pieces of food and hair,
avoid pain, even though I used
caustic soda for years. He admitted
how much the look of me standing
over drains with a tipped plastic bottle
in my hand or crouched to clean out P traps
around the house emptied him.
Not once did we speak of snakes.

Arlene Ang
ARLENE ANG lives in Venice, Italy as a freelance translator, volunteer web designer, part-time poet, occasional writer and housewife with a nice collection of lethal grudges. She is kept sedated by solitaire games and cheap detective novels and edits the Italian Niederngasse. Her poetry has recently appeared or is upcoming in Pierian Springs, Absinthe Literary Review (2002 Eros & Thanatos Prize Winner), Poet's Canvas, Tryst, Star*Line and Sidereality.
The Adirondack Review