[from Sherman Alexie's Face, Hanging Loose, 2009]
The Sum of His Parts
Driving home, I ran over a bull snake
And tore it into three pieces.
I didn't mean to kill the thing.
I'd thought it was the thin shadow
Of a telephone pole stretched across the road.
I realized it was a snake
Only after I'd run it over.
That's the percussion
Of car tires and snake.
After I ran over it, I stopped,
Left the car idling,
And walked back
To the three pieces of snake.
In death-shock, the head and tail
Against the pavement
That had been its warm rock.
The middle piece, strange
And disconnected, did not move.
I said a prayer
To the Snake God,
And wondered if such a God exists.
If the Snake God does exist,
Then it is likely the same
As every other God:
I didn't want the snake's body to be insulted
By other cars and their drivers,
So I dragged the tail off the road to the west
And the head off the road to the east,
But could not touch the middle piece
Because it was flattened and gory.
Satisfied that I'd shown the snake
Enough respect, I drove away.
But two miles up the road, I turned
Around and traveled back to the snake.
I don't know if there is a Snake Heaven,
But I didn't want the snake to suffer
because of my doubts.
If the snake's three pieces arrived
separately in Heaven,
Would any of them be able to find the others?
I dragged the tail and middle
Across the road and laid them beside the head
Because snake + snake + snake = snake.