by Elisavietta Ritchie
A real big mother of a snapper
impervious to poison ivy, briars,
lumbers up the river bank.
Shell slate black, crenellated at the stern,
snake neck, scaly limbs, hook claws,
horny beak to sever fingers or a foot.
A dozen rabbits race about, skitter, bound,
zigzag, scatter among tiger lily clumps.
Still, I bet on her. She heads straight
across the yard, an armored carrier
programmed on a course set fifty years ago
when she was young, this lawn a forest.
She pauses on the grass. Confused?
Was there a house across her path before?
I offer her my pear core, sprint aside.
She studies me: with loathing, mere disdain,
slow-stirred memory of a duel beneath
primordial cycads, or am I the perfect meal?
She's hellbent not on making war or lunch
but to unload her oblong leather eggs
in some cache underground. Now where…
I edge behind, lift her gingerly—
not only dangerous, she stinks—
carry her to an abandoned flower bed.
She takes off, a millstone on the march,
around the yard's perimeter at such a pace,
distracted by the rabbits, I lose track.
She grunts through the herb bed,
crushes dill, churns the earth
between oregano and rosemary.
When I check again, she's covered up
whatever spot she finally chose,
slid down the bank and disappeared.
How did that repellant hulk
entice a mate so tolerant
of her appearance, scent?
Was he drawn by long affection
or, with pure chelonian lust,
snatched the first female to swim past
for lengthy coupling or quick fix?
Love in the muck in the dark
or light of the moon on waves,
to prolong her dynasty engendered
before dinosaurs were born.
Like roaches, snappers may outlive us.
Unsure of their gestation span, I'll watch
the spot, escort phalanxes of hatchlings
to the shore, ward off ospreys, foxes, gulls…
But this very night, raccoons search
among the herbs, leave shards
like broken ping-pong balls.
Last updated August 20, 2017