I live and write with my husband in our forest home near Athens, Georgia. My poems have appeared in The Cortland Review, The Southern Poetry Review, The Atlanta Review, and many other journals and magazines. I have published five collections of poetry. When not writing or traveling, I putter in my woodlands garden, the site of "The Rattlesnake."
You can smell them, you know;
my elderly gardener friend,
speaking as an odd connoisseur,
pronounced the rattlesnake’s scent
“musky but with overtones of
cucumber and barley.”
She was right. I’ve smelled them, too.
Early in the heavy dew,
I’ve sensed their recent presence,
essence lingering on my garden paths
like remnants of stale perfume long trapped
perhaps in leather or like the must of spent desire,
tell-tale fragrance left on grass and twig
as muscles silent-slid the scales toward
the sleeping mouse, the nest of eggs,
meals of need and dark-quick stealth
not begrudged a legless life.
So when the headlights of our friends’ car caught
her in her evening hunt—across our drive,
toward the calling woods—her shock at light
and engine roar was not enough to turn her
from her task and from the crushing tread.
We had to finish what the tires began, of course.
A rattlesnake is not a thing to nurse.
My husband took his father’s shotgun
from the highest closet shelf and—
loathing his role—aimed the barrel
at the heart-shaped head and fired.
For several mornings after,
I was sure I smelled the musk,
distinct but fading,
winding through the garden air
like breath of soil, like pleasant smoke,
"The Rattlesnake" was first published in StorySouth (May, 2007).
©2018 Clela Reed
©2018 Clela Reed
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