Sunday, May 5, 2024

Not Even Not Zen 352: Poem - Dirt Beds

In the Dirt Beds

"Here's my row of pythons," she says.
Hand like a blade, she gestures to the open-air terrariums.
"The smaller row is the rat snakes."

They are raised mounds of dirt, really,
eight long rows, dry brown, littered with rocks.
One of her guests grunts as he picks his way between the raised beds.
His eyes scan the ground.
He notices a single reptile showing itself,
a colorful red, black, and yellow model
that his host swears is not venomous.
Wait, he thinks, and points a finger toward
a brown snake with a flat head, further down a different row.
He sees a green, reptilian figure rising, too,
from one of the holes at the tops of the mounds.
He notices a patterned snake, brown and tan, all the way at the end.
It appears to be sunning itself.

There are a lot of them out, he thinks. He just hadn't noticed.

"In these rows," his sister-in-law continues as she turns a corner.  
"I have kingsnakes and hognoses. There, with the ditch between them
are the homes for greensnakes and boas."

Her smallest guest is a boy of seven,
a book-smart child in a white shirt.
He sweeps his hand to the end of the far row.

"What are those mounds over there?" he asks.
Next to him, his older sister,
blue shirt, dark hair, dark jeans,
turns to study the earth.

"I keep a few indigos next to the greensnakes," she says.

"For the color?" asks the girl.

"Yes!" The answer comes with a laugh.
"They look nice. They're harmless."

Finally, the girl's mother, the host's sister,
raises her blonde ponytail
and puts a hand on her hip.
A moment ago, she was running her hand through the ditch
and now she pops a lump of dirt,
a puff of gritty smoke, dust on her pants.
Another hand goes to her other hip.

“Have you ever thought of growing something else
on this property?" she remarks. She lifts her head
to indicate the land beyond the fence.
"I mean, maybe corn, or a few fruit trees."

"No apples in this garden," the host replies.
Her eyes narrow suspiciously on her sister.
Her arms fold across her chest.
"Just snakes."

-- Eric Gallagher

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