Cotton Mouth
by Vivian Finley Nida



Of two hundred fifty snakes
you, Cotton Mouth
are one of thirty-six poisonous to man
Dark

Not strongly marked like
Diamond Back
Copperhead
Not coveted for snakeskin boots or belts

Pits between your eyes and nostrils
detect warm-blooded prey
but bullets are cold; so were you
when a boy lifted you from a drainage ditch

stretched you on the teacher’s desk
watched as she turned white
stumbled from the room
gripped the water fountain in the hall

From the safety of the dock
she had seen you in the lake
lying in cattails like a slender branch
You yawned

Twin fangs and the white of your mouth
turned her mouth, like yours, to cotton
It felt that way again
She drank to no avail

You chose water for home
In summer’s heat as water recedes
on earth as it vanishes
what will happen to you

Will people only find you in the
herpetology building at the zoo
Will their great-grandchildren study
your picture next to Tyrannosaurus Rex

Or will your body vibrate
as rain pelts cracked beds
and will you bear young alive
once more, waiting to strike





Illya's Honey Literary Journal

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