Black snake’s a thick
cursive on the road,
sliding yardward.
Dad’s smoking in his chair,
says grab the shovel.
I do as I’m told,
chop its neck
against the gravel
as it flashes white
and bites the air.

Days before,
a grass snake like
a thin vine tendrilled
the shovel handle
on the porch,
green and slow.
The cat ignored it,
I let it go.

From Ark (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2016). Copyright © 2016 by Ed Madden. Used with the permission of the poet.