A Story About a Marriage by P. Scott Cunningham

A plumber came to snake the drain.
Big snake or little snake? he said.
And so we bought a snake. The water
disappeared like water down the drain.
A friend of a friend of a friend
gave us the name of a guy in Kendall
who maybe had something we’d like.
The snake came in a plastic cage.
It was black with brown spots
or brown with black spots and thinner
than my thumb. We named it
Horace but that was not its name.
Horace loved the sun. He loved to lie
on my wife’s convex belly as my wife
lay on the chaise lounge in a bikini
reading the Styles section of
The New York Times Sunday edition.
He loved to eat and grow and hide
in dark places like piles of towels
and showers and dirty laundry
and the blankets on the bed where
the dog slept when we were at work.
Perhaps it was because he loved the dog
that we loved him. Boris loved the sun
too, and curled up with Horace
in the warm spots on the floor.
Horace nuzzled Boris and Boris
cleaned his eyes with his tongue.
When Horace outgrew the biggest
cage, we gave him his own room
and a thousand watts of light.
The new baby slept with us.
His name was Horace too.
What we didn’t expect was how
Horace One, now twenty feet long
and thick as a trunk, could move
from room to room. As if
he’d never grown, the police said,
he could flatten himself and go
under the doors. I remember
I’d dreamt of something: the plumber
drilling the big snake into my ear,
because there were some leaves
stuck in my head that kept
the thoughts from moving freely.
I woke up refreshed.
My wife was still asleep.
Horace was lying in the sun.


P. Scott Cunningham is a poet and translator in Miami, FL where he is the Poetry Editor of The Miami Rail and the Director of O, Miami and Jai-Alai Books. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Harvard Review, The Awl, RHINO, Columbia: a journal of art + literature, PANK, The Rumpus, Maggy, Waxwing, and Sou’wester, among others.