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Border Codes

Mark Marino, Author

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Poem 11 -- Western Diamondbacks

Western Diamondbacks—light to medium brown (liable to reach a length of two meters)—densely populate North American deserts. Most often found in brushy washes and shady recesses, in the springtime, they emerge from hibernation, blooming like flowers. At this, their venomous peak, they sunbathe, flashing their diamond-shaped patches. Their prey of choice: mice and kangaroo rats. Diamondbacks hold a dubious record—the majority of the continent’s snakebite cases. Listen for their rattle. Look for the shallow circular marks they leave in locations where they’ve coiled up to sleep. Diamondbacks, too, are creatures of habit, returning to rest stops. Poisonous snakes fall into two categories (dependent upon their venom). Diamondbacks pack a hemotoxic punch, albeit not as concentrated as that of some snakes. They make up for this supposed lack in their powerful mode of delivery, injecting large quantities of venom with single surgical strikes. Hemotoxins flood the bloodstream, destroy blood cells, damage tissue, catalyze internal hemorrhaging. Yes, reactions to snakebites vary. But, if you are bit by a diamondback—especially in March or April—within three minutes the area around the wound will redden and swell. And, left untreated, your body will not deviate from a well-rehearsed script: massive swelling and blistering, a steady lowering of blood pressure, headache, severe pain, blood in the urine. Do not block circulation or make incisions to the wound. Do not take painkillers or sedatives. Do not eat. Remove all clothing and jewelry beneath the area. Remain motionless; keep the bite below your heart. Ideally, get someone else to cleanse the wound. And, most importantly—borders be damned—call 9-1-1 or 0-6-6; seek medical attention immediately.
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