I have been woken by a dream of a snake
moving steadily over dry leaves
that shift and hiss under his light weight.
He has bitten my daughter all over,
her soft white skin covered with double holes.
We are deep in the woods, too far from help,
and it is the desperate wail,
erupting from my mouth as she lies still,
that brings me back to now.
We are moving from this hard gray city
to a land that breathes with trees,
and I wonder at my fear, and whether
memories of watching snakes and bugs,
of whooping carelessly over vines and logs
belong to some lost self, if the snakes are stronger now.
I worry about my fig’s failed graft,
and whether the new owner will understand
how to balance the branches’ weight along the wires,
how to make the artichokes bloom again,
and about the future of my celery, a biennial
in its first year: will they, unknowing, pull it out?
My daughter taps my arm and I open my eyes,
hers round and dark in the early light,
so I lift her and the covers enclose us.
She whispers into the soft air of waning night
about the moon, and the shadows, and the rain.
The song sparrow, just back from the south,
tells us it’s morning, insisting his friends answer,
and I feel ashamed that I cut down his tree
and tense my arms, pressing my daughter closer,
pulling me back here to this bed,
as small fingers trace my cheeks and eyebrows,
seek my arm, sneak into my sleeve, and rest.
[Check out Sallie Hess's back porch interview]