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Before She Knew Her Body Was the River

The pocketknife lies open in the dirt, and the snake—headless, milky-translucent muscle—curls in and out, while the girl watches its rhythm, the way it moves not in defeat but in defiance of her father. Sucker should be dead, he says. Still, it dances. Years later, in a poorly lit dorm, that’s the way she’ll tell it, red plastic cups on the floor. And the boy, pukashelled and drunk, won’t be listening, but she’ll tell him, anyway, dance for him, anyway, become the snake for him, anyway, because this—this evocation of want—will feel like defiance, like reverence.

Anna Gates Ha earned her MFA at Saint Mary’s College of California. Her work, nominated for the Pushcart Prize, has appeared in Harpur Palate, The Citron Review, Milk Candy Review, and JMWW, among others. You can find her at and on Twitter @annagatesha.

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