Fear of Snakes

On the sidewalk, a clutch of three
tiny plastic toys. I flinch, step around them. Too late,
they have wriggled into memory and pulled out
a long black racer in Georgia, shooting
under my child’s swing with her in it--screams
and rescue from a shape, a movement already
gone, until we watch from behind a glass door
as our snake swallows a frog on the front walk.

It must get seismic messages through its belly.
We stretch out on raised beds, second-story sleepers.
I meant to think about snakes, but my mind leaped away
as if the word could coil and strike at bare ankles.
I turned away, afraid to step into the tall grass
where I cannot see what’s ahead until I get there,
where I may meet a narrow fellow or some other thing
leaping, scaring me back onto the path well traveled.

The black racer owns the yard. Our guardian snake
defends us against worse versions of its tribe.

(Accepted for publication in Blue Five Notebook, 2011)