Matthew David Manning is a poet and instructor at Pittsburg State University (PSU) in the Intensive English Program. Matthew holds degrees in creative writing from Arizona State University and PSU, and has been published or has forthcoming poetry in such publications as Rust + Moth, velvet-tail, Eunonia Review, 150 Kansas Poems, and Chiron Review. Matthew recently returned from spending two years teaching creative writing in Suzhou, China.
The Movement Underneath
I had left the backyard to itself for too long.
Getting rid of the rusted cans was the first step.
Some were buried in the soil
as cheap planters or children’s secret places.
My dad threw one back on the ground
with two snakes still inside. Yellow touches red,
you’re dead I read aloud from my phone
trying to decide if the colors were touching.
The snakes sat still long enough to grab a pole.
The larger one, toothless, mouthing words
I didn’t know, wrapped enough to let me toss it
into the alley. The other one, still in the can,
was easier to throw over the fence.
Because of the first, I imagined finding more
when I removed the carpet from the mound of dirt.
We watched the pile of stone-colored snakes feel the sun
in surprise. They had made tunnels for the beetles
to come in and out. Leave them there, my father told me,
They’ll find a new place where they feel safe.
When rain started falling, the movement grew. Crickets
crawled on snakes, and spiders avoided the centipedes
like they’re already used to sharing their cold wet home.
When I dumped a large piece of carpet into the trash
three snakes, and a toad fell out. The snakes I swept
into the front yard, their bodies flailing off the husks
of my broom. The toad, though, escaped through a hole
in the garage floor where I could only see sawdust.
I imagine there’s more underneath the garage
than I know about. I wonder if he’d have to die
in order for me to feel better, or whether I’d ever be happy
until I could peel the garage from the ground
to be sure of the movement or stillness that surrounds me.