Home > Poetry > Blacksnake
Published: Tue Apr 15 2014
Diego Isaias Hernández Méndez, Convertiendse en Characoteles / Sorcerers Changing into Their Animal Forms (detail), 2013, oil on canvas. Arte Maya Tz’utujil Collection.

When I noticed the blacksnake I knew
_        _what had happened to the new rabbits. I didn’t
wonder any more about whether they’d find a home

under the pine trees or under the pink magnolia
_        _where I first saw them, one
still in its nest near the flower pot, one at the door

in Florida, where I came late to a landscape
_        _of palms and flowers, where I don’t know many things—
the pelican, for example, or the armadillo

who dug up my pretty garden, or the sandhill crane
_        _with his pert, red cap on his forehead, his willow legs,
who saw himself in my window and danced and danced,

or the alligator who wandered over the highway
_        _from the pond to the swimming pool and had to be hoisted
out and carried away. But the newborn rabbits—

no, they were not so lucky. They didn’t live
_        _for forty years like the crane does. They saw only
grass and a few flowers, maybe the sky

and a black vine moving quickly, a dark mouth.
_        _And now, there he was, the blacksnake, sunning himself,
looking contented, I thought, and a little drowsy

after his morning meal. Well, after all,
_        _he was here long before I was, so I didn’t lift
the shovel and plunge it down on his shimmering body

which has left me its skins, sheer as the skins of onions,
_        _and kept the mice from my cupboards. I told myself
how he didn’t know any different, and off he went

back to the saw palmetto where he disappeared
_        _to sleep as long as he wanted, hardly disturbing
the path as he swept across it, letting the lawn

close gently behind him, leaving the finches singing,
_        _the flowers shining, leaving the morning mended
as if nothing had altered, nothing was gone.

See what's inside AGNI 79

Patricia Hooper’s most recent books of poetry are At the Corner of the Eye and Aristotle’s Garden. Her poems have appeared in The Hudson Review, The Sewanee Review, The Atlantic Monthly, AGNIPoetry, and elsewhere. A Michigan native, she lives in North Carolina. She received the 2011 Laurence Goldstein Prize from Michigan Quarterly Review. (updated 4/2015)

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