was quite startling, coloured with sin
and crawling on the ground like a snail
though more treacherous; not like the one
father accidentally killed with the car
then took home to overlay his belt,
like someone might refurbish a worn chair—
he had an eye for clothes, my father,
and they hung on him well; this snake was bigger
and looked like the belt of an Indian chief;
trees were making their last stand against the weather,
and the snake must have sensed something
in these woods to come out and confront me.
She licked the air between us with her tongue
and waited for me to make some sort of move,
cold-blooded bitch who looked it and knew it.
I'd like to catch one in the sun on a lazy day
looped around itself, a plump cochlea,
or a fat mosquito coil that a child has painted—
but she'll hear you come from a mile off,
slacks caught in bramble in your haste,
and she'll wait, a bright Boerewors wrap,
because for her there is no hurry and no reason
to get out from the warming vigour of the sun.
I wanted to pick her up gently and slip her
like a garden hose onto my arm, a sort of amulet,
despite the warning language of her tongue;
but she had turned around and was weaving
slowly off through tufts of mohlomo grass
that parted for her like water for a vessel,
or guards lowering their spears for the queen,
in this valley deep between two mountains
where you can look around with open eyes,
and still miss all there is to hope for.