Updated: Dec 3, 2020
In the space between the termite-riddled wall and the draughty rafters
on a faraway farm, when I was four
coiled an invisible threat
turning and twisting, swarmish as bees.
On a faraway farm when I was four
the rustling and hissing wasn’t bees,
turning and twisting swarmishly,
and as I slept open-eyed, my father climbed into the attic.
The rustling and hissing wasn’t bees,
but a black mamba; he discharged a shot
as I slept open-eyed. My father climbed into the attic,
waited for its writhing to cease, then measured eight foot.
But that was a black mamba! Today, he discharged a parting shot
in the space between front door and the street,
waited for our writhing to cease.
There might be a threat, he said, more invisible than a snake
today, in the space between front door and the street.
Coiled, a swarming threat.
There might be a threat, he said, more silent than a snake,
though we’re far from those termite-riddled walls and the draughty rafters.
With thanks to Jane Skovgaard for describing to me her childhood memory of a black mamba.