EMILY A. BENTON: Self-Portrait as a Brown Tree Snake

(2016 Ian MacMillan Awards, Poetry Finalist)

All cargo must filter through a beagle’s wet nose
              though no hound found me in 29-E,

coiled behind a toddler’s homesick wail.
              Yellow-eyed, I awoke from a non-sleep

dreaming of the edges of things—
              the green underbelly of a greener tree,

an untouched earth for my slithering.
              I could’ve crossed in the crack of a ship,

wrapped my scales inside a Christmas gift,
              or piped from a barged car’s exhaust.

Instead, I rode business class with aloha prints.
              I was the apple not tossed

in the amnesty bin, the unchecked customs box.
              Lassoing from parking lot to picnic bench,

I moved until I thought I’d left my kin. And there,
              in the wings of a monkeypod, I ate

my share and marveled at the lizard’s red throat.
              For days, I loafed. Then one night

a scent licked the air, followed by a voice
              sounding like my own. It told me what

I needed to hear under that great starry dome:
              Say what you will about discoveries.

You’re not the last to arrive;
              silly, if you think you’re the first.


Emily A. Benton is an assistant poetry editor for storySouth and a former editor for The Greensboro Review. Her poems appear or are forthcoming in journals such as Hayden's Ferry Review, Barn Owl Review, Southern Poetry Review, and Harpur Palate. Originally from Tennessee, she has lived in Hawai'i since 2012.