"To Oscar, The Black Snake at my Birthday Party"
No, disappearance saddens. You vanished.
No wake, no trace of skin or scale of blade
of grass bent to reveal where you slithered.
All muscle and anthracite gleam in the May
sunshine we sought together, you did not
mind when I lifted you coil by coil,
a rope tarred black for a pirate's yacht.
I let you weave around my neck, then wind
upward into an Athenian wreath for a head
bystanders would call foolhardy, the risk
too great for my bravado.
One child and I wore you as an onyx
choker: guests screamed, edged
toward the grill, into the house –
But I know you. You wintered overhead
in our attic we reach only by a ladder too
steep to scale. You found secret apertures
to steal through these century-old walls,
explore the house we had thought ours,
inspect paintings you left askew or else
shattered in apparent disapproval, then
you hid on the broom closet's shelves
with bug spray, unopened silver polish.
Those of us who know our serpents
admired the sheen of your latest skin,
cut of your jaws, your hat-pin eyes.
I released you in the yard where you
keep down moles, toads, field mice,
and alas, a few baby bluebirds.
Every late spring you turn up, regular
as birthdays. Another due, we wonder
who will attend. Will you, veteran of many
herpetological years in our wild yard?
and spiraling back upon myself, will I?