Snake on the Etowah

Kicking through woods and fields, I’d spooked several
and once stepped on a coachwhip among gravestones,
at least one garter curled like a bow
under ivy in my yard.
Once I even woke on the hazy bank of a lake,
wiped dew from my eyes and found
on my ankle
a cottonmouth draped like a bootlace.

I thought I knew how beauty could poison
a moment with fear,
but wading that low river, feet wide on rocks—
my rod hung on the backswing, my jitterbug
snagged on the sun—
I felt something brush my thigh.
The bronze spoon of a copperhead drifted
between my legs.