Sunday, 5 November 2017

Killing the Brown Snake by John Grey

Western Brown Snake
By Andy (originally posted to Flickr as Western Brown)
via Wikimedia Commons


It was a hot summer’s day
and my father killed a snake,
smashed its head
with a shovel,
as two foot of brown body slithered
this way and that
as it lost all connection to its brain.

I wanted to bury the reptile
but he tossed it
into the woods behind the house
where the ants could make a meal of it
as it decomposed in the searing weather.

I checked it out later
when the insects had already moved in,
got close up with venomous fangs,
a flattened forked tongue.

“If one of them bites you,” my father said,
“you’d get very sick.”
He didn’t mention death
but, even at the age of eight,
the implication didn’t escape me.

I shuddered as I stood there.
imagining the snake
coiled around my body,
piercing my legs, my arms, my chest,
with those vampire teeth,
flooding my body with enough toxin
to drop me like a rifle shot.

But, that day,
the snake was the unfortunate boy,
my father was the viper.
I was just an ant
nibbling with my curious eyes.

*****

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident in Providence RI. Recently published in the Psaltery and Lyre.