The playground was reptile-infested.
Students skipped to the posts, jumprope ornamented.
Nailed into one post – like the hand of Jesus,
split and frayed – a snake’s tail.
A white python, dotted yellow
laid belly-up on the tar.
It’s belly rose with each
Child after child would squish
the skull, poke the eyes,
penetrate the nostrils with
a pinky, give it a twist;
child after child would hop
over the swinging stomach,
holler nursery rhymes over
the smack, smack, smack.
Teachers would laugh
and exchange profanity
over the smack, smack, smack.
Each equipped with a hammer,
the teachers’ feared the nail would loosen.
They knew the snake would leave the post.
They knew the snake would attack.
After the school closed,
janitors would sweep shed scales,
twist the python and
nail his mouth shut at the post’s peak.
Early-risers would bring their own hammers
to unfasten the jaws.
The snake never bit back.
Its fangs were chipped.
It’d unravel itself and slither onto the pavement,
waiting to be smacked, smacked, smacked.
The children brought hammers to a different playground
only to later realize they are not necessary.
The jumprope was string: no scales.
The end was plastic-tipped: no eyes.
The first time the rope bent in the air,
the children confused it for a belly
yet, there was no smack, smack, smack.
Days later the teachers watched children
nail string to the posts and trash their hammers.
They could no longer exchange words over
the smack, smack, smack. Mumbling
about students was easily heard over
the tap, tap, tap projected by the
white rope. The teachers
suspected the snake escaped.
Some say his shedding was found beneath the slide.
Some say his nail-pierced tail can be heard.
With each slither, the nail hits the pavement:
clink, clink, clink.