Snake Charmer
Kathryn Stripling Byer

When she leaned down
 to draw water, white neck
 laid bare as she knelt with her jug,
thinking only of what she must do
 next, the supper fire kindled, 
the skillet set singing with grease
for the fritters,

the snake that lay
coiled inside dark rushes
struck.  Had she been taught
how to charm him, she might have gone
 home with only a story to tell,
the snake gazing into her eyes where
the full moon reflected her unflinching
womanly round of obedience to
what her blood sang as she journeyed

from duty to duty. How eye
to eye she coaxed the serpent
back into its silent repose
among sally grass,
the katydids tuning up,
the owl biding time before 
out of the creekside's slick hiding 
places, small night-time morsels
crept over the moist grasses,
into the  moon's hungry glare.

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