From RattleSnake Rider (out of print)
The Song of the RattleSnake
I carry poison in my mouth
my tongue split to the root.
I taste the air for danger
a jagged red flicker of lightning
bringing thunder before rain.
I go on my belly on the ground
where the elements meet--I prefer earth.
I live in a line and I curve to move.
I am the totem of the nadir,
the omega, the descent beckoning.
In descent is my safety--
down through the arteries of the earth,
stone pulsing around my body,
I am the breathing body of rock.
I am the tongue of fire in stone--
rains seeks me through cracks, splitting stone,
opening the way deeper into darkness.
I shelter with my kind in winter
in rock rooms beneath the desert freeze.
In summer, I sleep in shadows.
At night, I seek the warmth of rocks and roads.
I celebrate the nights the full moon makes
a pearl in a snakeskin
cloud in a dark sky of sharp stars.
I make my mouth a world of teeth to strike,
and I unhinge the doors of my jaws
to swallow whole what finds me.
Badger, Hawk, and Coyote seek my flesh
and the Sun may spear my life to the sand with a lance of light
but these are not my enemies--
my enemies are the hand, the heel
the knife, the rifle, and the wheel.
I fang the heels of those who kill
without love, respect, or gratitude.
I strike too quick for eye to follow
after my rattle pierces the ear.
I carry the colors of the earth in the red dust
on the diamonds of my skin.
My works are the skins I shed
to renew myself--
left for the hands of the fortunate
as a sign of where I’ve been,
not where I’ve gone.
Hold them gently for their power.
I coil to center myself on nothing
but the earth visible
in the circle I make.
I live driven beyond the bounds of the human
where the wind carries the yawp of Coyote.
I take my rattle in my teeth
to renew the human myth of the round.
My rattle is my drum, beating time from the world
with the quick rhythm of the actual
sound of presence.
I make a song of warning.
said the package--
you laughed and pointed to the warning
“NOT TO BE TAKEN INTERNALLY”
and read the instructions in your own way:
“Just drop capsules in warm-slash-hot water
and watch mythic figures arise!”
“FUN - EDUCATIONAL - NON-TOXIC”
Revelations in lukewarm water!
Characters cut from colored sponge
burst the runny plastic
touch the water, fill, and grow large.
You did one, I did one.
We invented magic words
and whatever we said worked.
Not that you got the one you hoped for--
I made the creature you wanted appear.
You gave me the one with wings.
Hawk In October
The shadow touched me before I even saw the hawk
gliding ten feet above my head
then swooping up to perch on a phonepole
to look me over.
I looked for marks
to identify the species
but suddenly I thought of John James Audubon
wandering through the new world
so he could draw pictures and name them.
White breast, brown-striped belly
head and wing-tips dipped in darkness--
I think I know
but I won’t name it now
after the hawk knew right away what I was
and had no name for me.