Meeting a Cottonmouth
My camera lens coils to cricket frogs
pouncing on the river. Somewhere,
cave salamanders, blind as soap
slap dripping rocks. On the trail
a fattened boomerang wriggles his tail,
his throat jammed by a rat, swallowing
prey in a glacial, reverse birth. My photo
shows the rodent’s back feet plunging
through the snake. I imagine
Appalachian churchgoers shaking
armfuls of rattlers, crooning halleluiah,
the woman cradling her Gaboon viper
before the landlord finds her dead.
I love the cottonmouth, his eyes
two berries of lava, his ebony crescent
fanged white. Few friends cared for my frog,
barred owl and damselfly pictures,
but praised the water moccasin
like a soft, venomous cane, stirring
our fate mortal as the rat.
In Genesis, the serpent slid bellying
on earth, accursed by heaven,
yet his mouth’s sweet canker
sends people to God.
Eric Fisher Stone is a poet from Fort Worth, Texas where he now lives. He received his MFA in creative writing and the environment from Iowa State University. His first full length poetry collection, “The Providence of Grass” was published by Chatter House Press in 2018, and his second collection, “Animal Joy” is forthcoming from WordTech Editions in 2021.