It took three people to carry its length, sagging
between their hands, from the wrackline
where they found it, down to the water’s edge.
From a distance just a pale smear along the beach, probably garbage,
probably a ride of sand, driftwood, but something
in its snaked lie made them walk up
and look. And then lift it. I wasn’t there,
but have stared so often at the snapshot
I’m convinced I could have been, and that’s
good enough, isn’t it? To look at a picture and feel the sun
on your shoulders, the dead weight
of the fish, the shifting rocks underfoot, hot
through the thin soles of canvas shoes, the smell
of insect repellent and decay.
This strange long weight that they picked up—
serpent, discovery, trophy, documentation—a thing
no one else they’ll ever know
will have seen. Yes, they’ll nod
to the guidebooks, it’s like that, but
The red was more subtle. The belly
not so sleek. We held it. Scales glimmered on our skin
after. I wish I had been there.
It’s curled and ghostly on the wall.
They picked it up and smiled, they
sighted down the long fin of its dorsal. The two
plumes trailing from its head, flaring
like oars, rested on the inside of their upturned arms.