Blue Racer

 

And so on a hike in spring

I meet her again

 

And always it seems

For the first time—

 

And always now maybe the last,

 

In the lingering chill

 Of a Michigan May afternoon,

 

Where she suns

On the woodland floor

 

In the first green breath

Of the understory:

 

A bullwhip

Cast to the trail,

 

But blue—

 

And in certain light

Cerulean blue,

 

Like a gauntlet flung down

From the punishing Heavens:

 

A blue racer.

 

All vitality is suspended

Along her five mazy feet

Of tapered length,

 

But the beetled relucent eye

Is trained on me,

 

And the restless flame

Of the tongue

Is ready to ignite

Her invisible fire.

 

In the tiny mirrors

Of her scales

 

Shine the cloudless skies of Eden,

 

But already the Fall,

 

Already the sentence

Of her limbless in the dust,

 

Already the proclamation

Of our enmity:

 

She is still settling

Into her being,

 

Her fresh metamorphosis

From fallen angel

To magnificent reptile.

 

One more step her way

 

And she tenses

Like a readied whip.

 

Another step—

 

And off she flies,

 

In dread of being forgiven,

 

In dread of becoming

An angel again.

 

And such acceleration!

 

Her spectacular

Horizontal soar!

 

Her vanishing

Blue rivering

Through the understory!

 

As the downed leaves

Crackle in her clear fire,

 

And I chase the temptress

On feet

 

Hopelessly

 

Through brush

And over treefalls

 

Toward a final glimpse

Of her raveling tail

 

As she weaves

Into the warp and weft

Of the Earth

 

And is gone.

 

And all summer long

She will meander

The woods’ thick foliage

Invisibly,

 

This non-venomous

Constrictor

In her secret azure—

 

This ever-rarer

Cold-country snake

On an ever-warming planet.

 

And how will I find her

Before it's too late,

 

To broker a lasting peace

Between man and serpent,

 

To make amends

 For a misbegotten myth?

 

¨