We carried pebbles under our tongues
as we ran. Our father told us
They’d keep us safe from cottonmouth.
Keep thirst from breaking our stride.
We sweated down cattle trails and old
dirt roads and became dehydrated
dizzy and our vision hazed among
the yuccas with their tall stalks
pointing toward heaven, and the scruffy
Joshua trees like spiked prophets,
warning us to watch the shadows
and rocks. Did we imagine the long
eared jack rabbits and loping coyotes,
laughing over their furry shoulders
as we raced under the sun? The whisper
of the rattlesnake, coiling down a mouse
burrow – you there, take flight, but how
far can you run to escape the madness
of your myth? The pebbles allayed our thirst
as we died of thirst. These small stones
picked out of a dry wash and spit
onto the earth at our father’s feet, covered
in what spit we had left, to dry in the sun.