Droning of a mower stops.
Smell of cut wild onion.
“Caw,” “Caw,” and answering,
“Chip, chip, chip, chicoree,
writchee, writchee, writchee, chip, chee.”

Wind aloft in spruces a block away
approaches, lifts spruce tops in my yard.
I anticipate the air moving on my skin:
warm or cold? caress or bite?

I cut dry stalks,
stroll to the compost bin, pass
withered gold crocus bowls,
smell cool, rich, damp earth, pass
behind the budding cherry,
stop, suck in breath.

On the ivy grown amok
long, round, sinuous,
yellow-and-black gleam in bright sun.
A raised head
as still as I.
Did I startle you to stillness?

I carry the fear of my species:
imagined poison,
Biblical warning: wisdom
from the underworld forbidden.
Seeing truth is dangerous, terrifying.

Uraeus rears on Pharaoh’s crown.
Medusa’s scalp writhes with vipers.
Shiva’s garland crawls,
sways spread hood.

First of all creatures in Aegean myth.
Gaia's familiar.
Guardian of the golden fleece.
Twining on
Mercury’s staff,
Hygeia's bowl,
Moses’ rod.

Brightly feathered to the Mayan.
Peacefully hissing in Voodoo rites.
Uncoiling in kundalini.
Curling on Vishnu’s bed.
Mary’s bare foot crushes you.

double helix.

You have a lot to live up to
or live down.
You and I.

I suppose you climbed my window box
to the sparrow’s nest I found full one day,
empty the next.
Unhinged jaws closed around
a tiny mottled oval,
swallowed, then lips surrounded
another one. All five?
In a silent glide under ivy
do you rob vole nests of pink newborns?

Nothing you need atone for.
But I have.

“Get the hoe!” I'd screamed
to my husband, knowing he
hated snakes
and watching
from the top of the basement stairs
as he chopped
then brought up
the long curved black body draped
over the long handle. Harmless black snake.
Too late wondering if she had a nest
under my palletted boxes.
If she’d eaten mice
I'd tried to trap.

Now you regard me with your tongue,
eyes wary in opposite directions.
We stare unblinking.
What do you perceive about me?
You communicate nothing to me
except a still waiting.
I see only what I knew.

Said to be dry, cool, smooth, muscled
to the touch, you might like the warmth
of my hands and arms. I might like your cool
flowing over my skin, around my limbs,
squeezing soft skin of my neck as
I tip back my head. Would you
be drawn to heat and musk of creases?
Would you slide into damp hidden places?

I lift my phone; the shutter chi-cheeps.
You are gone.
Or hidden below the ivy.
I was the one to strike.