January 28, 2019

Robert Wrigley

SO WE MEET AGAIN

What are you doing here, snake?
Coiled atop a cold cistern
chilled by what fills it, your eyes,
which never close, covered by
a scale called a spectacle,
appear to be looking out
over the gully that drains
the spring, though your retinas,
which do close, may be shut tight.
It’s a brisk April morning.
I’m carrying a gallon 
of bleach to “treat” the system.
You lie there among the stones
that hold the cistern lid down.
so you will have to move now.
Or be moved. My first few prods
with a stick do not rouse you,
but the fifth or sixth one does,
and your tail full of rattles
springs up in its warning whir,
just beside your wedge of head.
And when I poke you again,
all your winded coils respond
at once in every direction
and simultaneously
in order to propel you
southward, over cistern lip
and into the five-foot drop
to the muddy ground below,
where you stay a little while,
stunned and probably still cold.
Splash from the overflow pipe
cannot help in this regard,
but I’ve brought a bucket too,
to dip out ten or fifteen
gallons and let the chlorine
do its poisonous business
without excess dilution.
I confess I am tempted
to toss the first bucketful
on you, to drive you away,
but I’ve already disturbed
your sleep, if that’s what it was,
and you are beautiful there,
shimmering in the spring mud.
And by the time I replace
the cistern lid and the stones,
the slenderest shaft of sun
has breached the dense canopy
above us and shines on you
and warms you enough you move
in slow elegant esses
down into the narrowing
gully, where you’ll spend your day
waiting, among blackberries,
ferns, and blossoming sumac,
for a mouse, much less watchful
than I am, to blunder by.

from Rattle #61, Fall 2018

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Robert Wrigley: “By this point in my life—I’m almost 67, retired from four decades of teaching—it feels like writing poems is still pretty much what it has always been for me: both a way of being alive, and a way of staying that way.” (web)

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