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Thursday, February 08, 2007


by Esther Stenson

The rattlesnake
sprawled on the warm boulder beside
blueberry bushes I was stripping
one young summer day,
did not bother to inform me he was there
or give me a dose of his lethal injection.

Nor did a skinny copperhead
calmly weaving its way
in the dusk from one side
of the stony mountain trail to the other
pause to strike needlessly at my feet,
an inch from fangs that could have
given me fever and hallucination.

Neither did the fer-de-lance,
gliding like a mottled meter-long rope
over my petrified feet in the patio,
threaten me with a fatal dose of venom
as he disappeared into the dim recess
of my open kitchen.

Not even did the coral snake
curled under long cool tropical grasses
bent over the path I trod with sandaled feet,
seem interested in needless exertion and
human paralysis on a steamy afternoon.

Now I tremble when the Bushsnake
sends more unsuspecting tender species
into situations seething with
poisons of soul, feverish hallucinations
and paralyses worse than
the lethal strikes,
the fatal venom
of all other snakes.

In other lives Esther Stenson lived in El Salvador and China. Since 1995, she has been an instructor in the University Writing Center at James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Virginia. In addition, she is in the Master's Degree program in Creative Writing at JMU. Several of her poems have been published in Dreamseeker Magazine.