Professor of Literature and Creative Writing
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St. Petersburg, FL 33711
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My Grandmother's Legend
that would not die,
saw them writhe around
their wounds in garden dust,
how even with heads lopped off
by a strike of her hoe and its flashing
blade of sun,
slender copperheads whipped and knotted
at the dazzled place in the flesh.
"They will not die till sundown,"
she would say, flinging them
from the garden to the woods.
She knew some hatred came from God,
some enmity, and I believe
those serpents knew it too,
for every one would raise
itself against her, just like the first one
must have done in Eden.
The world would not go wrong again
on her account. I wondered
at her sudden glare,
her bare ankles, as she struck
the rope of muscle at the neck
and held the hoe
down hard, while the snake pled
with her and I tried to understand
its dust-choked word, moved
always to beg some kind
of intercession, seeing
in a dying animal everything wrong
with the world, too young to know
some things cannot be reconciled.
She also knew my mind, and after
she flung the coiling tail into the woods,
she said, "You stay away from there,
you stay away till sundown."
I sat in dust at the garden's edge, afraid
of my usual paths, dangerous now
until sundown, something
inside me twisting into knots, as I stared
into a copper sun,
burning and burning and burning.
Copyright Scott Ward