the first snake of the summer skimmed through the dog-paddock yesterday.
in the brooding twilight, it flashed through the dry grass
the angled sun catching copper from its skin, sending back
small semaphores to the sky.
first snake seen means many snakes hidden, he said, as he called the dog
back to the lead. These tigers
oh, they love the hot summers.
especially after a wet winter, which fosters mice, and frogs,
and other small, edible things.
My eyes narrow to slits.
a function of viscera, not thought,
all the things I know about the shyness of snakes, their place in the chain of life
swallowed whole by gut-deep disgust
fear, and a memory
of another dog stiff in his death agony
foam on his lips, and the marks of the snake in his side.
of my daughter, not yet five years old,
screaming, screaming, her panic, her agonised love
as she pulls at the dead dog's head, begging him
to come back to her.
a memory of finding shed skins
under my washing line, where
my children play barefoot in the hot summer haze.
a memory of a hissing tiger snake,
louder than gas escaping a valve, rearing up
facing my oldest dog in his near-blindess
before a well-thrown rock
caused a rapid slither away.
an ancient enemy indeed, of me and mine
its reptile motives unfathomable
its crystalline beauty unseeable
its poison all I know, all I fear
in the hot summer
the dry summer
the brittle, yellowed grass
as the sun begins its slow, red descent