My cousin said they could sew
children’s mouths with blue needles.

Some kids called them snake doctors, with power
to raise a dead copperhead to life,  

or write your name on their air. As my secrets grew,
I became better instructed concerning dragons

and the bright colors of their wheels.  In Japan
a woman taught me they were friendly,  

killing pests, appeasing ghosts. When she lost
her child to firebombs,  the sharp-eyed skimmers

drew her to water salted with stars.
Above the shut faces of wars and pond lilies

we prayed for the baby and ate our rice.
We saw the nymph’s skin split from a force inside,

a fresh thing hardening,  full of new shadow,
like cooling glass.  I came as close 

to them one other time.   
Therefore I never ask for too much

from the double-winged doctors—
a mouth ripped open, new words

for smoke, for sorrow.

(back to Brace’s Cove)