A checkered baby copperhead halts
two feet from me in the ochre and sanguine
frail leaves – it is worse to be bitten
by a baby because they cannot control their
aqueducts of venom – and stands static
as a tree as I watch the interlocked tiles
of her skin, dry and rough in the dehydrated air.
Her triangle head concentrates on the stillness
of my leather boots, and I know there will be no holding
her at arms length, a limp devastated cord,
as I have dangled the flaccid scooting garters who terrorize
my tomato patch, or the meter long scratched silver
mill snakes who stalk my father’s fish ponds.
This snake, this fire brown baby, is a cylinder of warrior
snake spirit, a potent packet of power pressed
into an amber tube. Her pink antennae
tongue splits at its cool tip into perfect twin probes.
Her ears are polished metal canals
that digest minute disturbances in air or ground.
Her slender spine, a row of chiseled ebony diamonds.
As the baby struts away, her body blends
into the percussion of the leaves. My veins sing
a sigh of relief, and my legs quiver
as the reptile bellies away –
a clean streamline of dynamite.