Cottonmouth

My girlfriend saw it first: against the railing
that runs along the length of the back porch,
a greyish shadow slipping from the steps,
behind the potted plants toward the light.

As it began to turn toward the back door
I brought the dull blade down upon its neck,
my body a safe hoe’s length stretched out from it;
it coiled to strike until its sense was dulled.

But even then, until its head was severed,
it seemed to flex in warning; and its jaws
had fixed themselves on a deck plank, and hung on
as if that anchor could prevent its death.

Tonight, as we drag on our smokes, the porch lights
are on full blast; our eyes keen on the rail
that separates the deck from yard and woodland,
the border of our cottonmouth patrol.

06 APR 2006

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