The Snake Charmer Retires - by Kristine Ong Muslim

Molting in front of its charmer,
the first snake does not try
to conceal its appetite.

The snake charmer understands.

Out of a basket of faceless souls,
he presents an offering in exchange
for a way out of this filthy turban,
this black wooden pipe and its
bone rhythm, and the damp corners
of city streets where people throw
him coins and spoiled food.

The snake hisses, tastes one soul:
"Only newborns have souls like this,"
it says, satisfied, "variable yet milky white,
unlike the tar-and-nicotine stained
souls of adults." The snake charmer
smiles and runs away without looking back.

The snake licks the soul trapped
in its coiled body and gives it a name.

- END -

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