Graham Barnhart


Walking outside after, I stepped on a snake
and thought copperhead. The way I think
every insect droning is a cicada.
But it did look like a dusty string
of penny shavings even if it was dead.
I remembered back in training, a soldier
squirming in the dirt. Shot pretend-dead
in a fictional ambush. When he fell, he fell wrong—
found a little copperhead with his hand.
I’ve heard the babies can’t control themselves.
All the poison. All at once. Who can say
if that the snake went on to starve
for lack of venom. If one drop more
than it intended, bled. But if I come to anger
like that. Without practice. Without saving
anything to live on. Don’t forgive me.

Graham Barnhart is the author of The War Makes Everyone Lonely forthcoming from the University of Chicago Phoenix Poets series (Sep/2019). A current Wallace Stegner Fellow, he was educated at The Ohio State University, and Allegheny College, and served in the US Army as a Special Forces medic. He has been awarded The Jeff Sharlet Memorial Award for Veterans, The Chad Walsh Poetry Prize, a scholarship to The Bread Loaf Writers Conference, and a fellowship to Writing Workshops in Greece. His work has appeared in or is forthcoming from The Adroit Journal, The Gettysburg Review, Gulf Coast, Pleiades, and others.