Jennifer Reeser


As Natives Go

I hear them speaking soft and low,
On Sunday morning after prayer,
“You’re really nice, as Natives go.”

They mean the very best, although
I see a nervous hint, I swear.
I hear them speaking, soft and low.

I carry neither adze nor bow.
The statement arrows through the air.
“You’re really nice, as Natives go.”

Upon my lifted hand, no crow
Affixes them with his grim stare.
I hear them speaking, soft and low:

“I’m partial to the Sioux, you know.
Have you a near relation there?
You’re really nice, as Natives go.”

“I see your skirt is Navajo.
My wife loves those fringe boots you wear.”
I hear them speaking, soft and low,
“You’re really nice, as Natives go.”

Taking the Snake Venom

I bite my tongue, then break
The tablet foil, and take
The venom of the snake—

This powder button bud
Which regulates my blood
Like placid drilling mud:

A viper from Brazil,
Contained within a pill
To cure my only ill.

What esoteric dreams
Will come from these blue streams
Of blood? What novel themes?

I tell my mellow man
Of medicine, it can
Enkindle and then fan

Such strangeness in the night!
He answers, “Good. Then light
The midnight oil—and write.”

Jennifer Reeser is the author of five collections. Her poems, essays, reviews, and translations of the French, Russian, and Cherokee languages have appeared in Poetry, The Hudson Review, Light, The Formalist, The Dark Horse, and others. Her work has been anthologized in Penguin’s Everyman Series, in Longman’s Introduction to Poetry, and others. She has received seven nominations for the Pushcart Prize, as well as awards from The World Order of Narrative and Formalist Poets, and The Lyric. Her website is