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Blacksnake

by Patricia Hooper


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.  

 

Patricia Hooper’s most recent collection is Aristotle’s Garden, which won the Bluestem Prize for Poetry. Her poems have appeared in The American Scholar, The Atlantic Monthly, Ploughshares, Poetry, and elsewhere. She received the 2011 Laurence Goldstein Prize from Michigan Quarterly Review. (updated 4/2014)


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