Serpents’ Bush Serpenbatus Serpents’ bush is an aromatic shrub that grows well at the edge of cultivated lands. The bark of the tender branches has an astringent quality; taken as a drink twice a day (with a sharp wine) it is good for dysentery, and is used for perfume due its arresting smell. If left unpruned however, the widening branches will weave themselves around larger trees or even homes. Those within begin to speak only in whispers, their words given up to the winding, while the dark green leaves grow heavy, feeding on the hush. In time, the people learn to confine themselves, to minimize their motions and avoid the slight cries of floorboards, the friction of pencils. Finally, the figures become still, and spend their days listening to the only sound that remains, the wind slipping through the structure. A gentle hand that re-arranges continually, but is never content. A low voice that to those within is both pleasure and suffering.
-- Peter O’Donovan is a scientist and writer living in Seattle, WA. Originally from the Canadian prairies, he received his doctorate from the University of Toronto, studying computer science and graphic design. He is the winner of the 2022 Guy Owen Prize from Southern Poetry Review, and his poetry has appeared in New Ohio Review, Atlanta Review, Qwerty, Typehouse Literary Magazine, and elsewhere.