Cottonmouth

A levitating anvil. Omen of seagull
blown inland. Ranch gate said Riverstyx,
but it was the woodland that looked lethal:

no place to put down your foot. Bucolics
demand boustrophedon. The by-the-book.
“The male cicadas thrummed their stomachs

while a dragonfly eyed us from a pole hook.
Ripening grapefruit. Us just under.
Shoulder to shoulder. Tree-shook.”

Milky skies belied the baffled thunder ... 
They left, not footsteps, trails in uncut grass.
“Like parallel snakes. No wonder.”

Eurydice should have thought moccasins,
aka cottonmouths, apropos
stealth. Distilled to systole-diastole. Assassins.

And everywhere sharp palmettos
clacked their tongues in homage to language — 
“I should have rhymed them with stilettos.”

Why would E. shed her red wedge
with its Mary Jane band,
wetland mosquito and midge

circling ankle (punctuated, understand,
by the awl, to mimic ellipses ... )? “Because”
 — O. — “she mimicked the shy strand

of epiphyte — Spanish moss — 
goose-pimpling the languid pond
with its dependent clause.”

More Poems by Ange Mlinko