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The Hanging Gardens
By Sarah Sullivan
I have never liked snakes,
but on my thirteenth birthday
my father married me off to the serpent-king.
His kingdom was a desert,
his palace a maze of burrows.
On my wedding night he slithered into the bedchamber,
his fangs stained with wine. He tore my dress
with scaly hands, ran his dreaded fingers
down the nerves of my hips,
and made me his.
As queen of the desert I had trunks full of jewelry
and closets bursting with satin gowns,
yet I longed for my mountain home-
the bowed trees bearing pomegranates ripe as nipples,
as warm and soothing as the bosom of my wet nurse.
I grew weak with sorrow and ague.
Worried, the king ordered a great garden built
of sloping terraces lined in ash and fir trees
from which hung sweet figs and grapes.
But before they were finished, I died.
My husband the snake-eyed
swallowed me whole in remembrance.
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