Stepping off the porch, I saw two feet away:
a rag left carelessly, or someone’s hat.
My mind refused, relented, finally let in
the looping, muscled form, diamond skin,
the awful sentience centered in the coil.
Along the curving body, rusty rhombs,
their brown rims joining at the spine,
like weathered saddles. Silent
and discrete, the tail was tucked
beneath the sequined sheath.
In stillness, curves looped endlessly
reversing, narrowing again—
delicate neck, the wide, flat jaw,
narrowing to arrow. Copperhead.
Big as a dinner plate, she sunned,
beside the step. I hugged the furthest
possible edge, watched for movement,
searched for eyes, a glance—if she’d return
my gaze, we could be friends.
She dozed or watched, eye slits fixed.
She never moved. For weeks, after she left,
all night her babies swam in the streaming street,
quick six-inch sine waves, lifted heads.
All night, my ungloved hands reached
deep into garden weeds, pulled up
unseen forms. All night her coils unleashed,
propelled that lethal head, those fangs.
And every day I looked for her beside the step,
her absence still there in the flattened grass.