Oh, I’m Dying, I’m Dying,
the disembodied voice ribs
in the clip of the snake whirlpooling itself to a fake death.
Blech, she belches, blepp,
as the faux-bra scrapes, underside-up along the grass, forked
tongue trailing the coil. Oh,
I’m dead—but we know it’s not. The touch-me-not gapes
its mouth long enough
to be patted again by the cowgirl who runs one finger a length
of ventral scales. With shit
it musks itself, sometimes punctures a bleed in its commitment
to being left alone.
I rewind to the seconds of its resurrection, when it flips to flee,
and pause to admire its hog-
nose of a snout, upturned and useful, subtle shovel in the plot.
Copyright © 2022 by Janine Joseph. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 30, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.
“The more time I spend on a gravel bike on the faraway country roads, the more I realize I need to overcome my anxieties of the rural unknown—beginning with my fear of snakes. Now, before I go to bed every night, I scroll through pictures and posts on an Oklahoma snake identification network and study patterns, colorations, heads, and habitats. My commitment has made me sweet on the hognose snake—notorious and known in the network as the ‘drama noodle,’ the ‘bluff adder,’ the ‘faux cobra.’ This poem is a feminist ode to this sensational resurrector of a reptile.”