The Black Snake

When the black snake

flashed onto the morning road,

and the truck could not swerve –

death, that is what happens.


Now he lies looped and useless

as an old bicycle tire.

I stop the car

and carry him into the bushes.


He is as cool and gleaming

as a braided whip, he is as beautiful and quiet

as a dead brother.

I leave him under the leaves


and drive on,  thinking

about death: its suddenness,

its terrible weight,

its certain coming.  Yet under


reason burns a brighter fire, which the bones

have always preferred.

It is the story of endless good fortune.

It says to oblivion: not me!


It is the light at the center of every cell.

It is what sent the snake coiling and flowing forward

happily all spring through the green leaves before

he came to the road.


Mary Oliver



For two hours we sat on the plane and waited and a half.

Three.  We took off.  We flew over the dark.

You were a girl and we were flying.  At home in Dublin

the first day and everyone and in the 70s and sunny.

The clouds rubbed on sea light, ‘a real Irish summer.’

Why two wolfhounds, two pigs, two swans?

How a dolphin for a shark?  You gasped in alarm for the Cliffs

of Moher, the contractors, selfies in the sweater you bought in Killarney.


Your Tumblr page; the handknotted sweater.  The summer nearby.

We interpreted the swans and the dolphin, which you at first mistook.

Our hair frizzed in the chilly mist.  I wondered how you would

stand me.  We saw blossom and so were you.   How unusual it was!

Our nips sharpened in the chill. Turf of our ancestors fortified

by the midnight pizza. The Atlantic fumed.  You were fourteen,

how could you stand?  Or how should contralto sound in nearby summer

on our girls’ journey that in the beginning our flight delayed?


Kathleen Ossip