Terrarium

Young men catch snakes for their own good,
rescue what slithered in wide circuit
through ragweed and muck,
retained in glass eight-by-four cubed
with a centimeter-deep pond.
Coiled coffin kings, sterile as pharaoh carapaces,
swallow lab mice dropped in deus ex machina, lethargic
without adrenaline spice and palpitating heart.
A sunset of rosehips and orange petals,
lemon custard with meringue clouds
–all this is sealed out.
Tea leaves float in a cooling cup.
Every so often a patch
of gold creeps its way between shutters,
taunts this underworld
of shoe leather, plastic bags,
and Pine-Sol, pungent, stinging a flagellant tongue.
Slave of retreating sun, the liquid gold
slithers away, fading in degrees,
until only a warm spot
remains on the floor.
Color this diminutive mouse life
egg-shell white.
An overhead bulb glows
with the brightness
of a thousand maggots.

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