Water Snake Serenity by Carol Mikoda

I walk so early, these hot days, past penitent, 

still-folded daylilies, who hold their floral 

stems outstretched to where the sun will show 

itself next, past robins sparring for land rights,

empty rentals soon to fill with families,

creek beds almost empty until after a downpour 

later in the day. 

I stop near the end of my walk 

(just before the uphill leg) to sit 

on Max’s dock and gaze out, waiting 

for poems to come. So still today – no breezes 

moving air or water. I see a small 

dot gliding along on the lake’s surface. 

I watch carefully: it is not a poem, nor a muskrat’s 

snout, nor a diving duck coming up for air. 

A water snake, not so big, maybe 

a foot long if it were straightened out. It is never 

straight, though, but like a constantly shifting sine 

wave, its entire body winding from side 

to side at a quiet pace, not hurried, raising 

no foaming wake or embossed ripples, just the nose 

above water. 

With my cell, I video its journey 

and stand to follow it as it comes close to the dock, 

stops to lick the air with vibrating tongue. 

Despite my aversion, I am spellbound, staring, noticing 

its green and brown bands, its lazily 

floating tail. Then it sees me, and when 

I take a noisy step closer, squeaking on the boards, 

it withdraws into cooler shadows in the water below me.