They were a spell over the landscape,
heat seeking, drawn to rock outcrops
that all night radiated sun.
- from "The Relocation of Rattlesnakes"
by Harry Humes, August Evening with Trumpet
Her brother killed black snakes
we knew hid in cattails
when we sloshed through
the creek, heading upstream
to catch minnows and crayfish.
He grabbed the snakes,
clenched his fists, as if about to draw
back his arm to swing a fist in a bar fight.
He smashed their heads on rocks.
We never looked. Instead, I turned
over stones for the rare salamander,
cradling it in my palms, slick
with water and mucus and algae,
build-up from runoff pipes.
I always let it wriggle back
to its hiding place, murky
with upturned sediment
swirling past my feet, downstream.