on poisonous snakes in puerto rico
BY ALYSE BENSEL
Kansas takes many forms:
cottonmouth, copperhead, massasauga,
prairie, diamondback, timber.
Slit pupils, the extra pit between nostrils and mouth.
A mouth fitted for fangs. A single row of scales
laid like a brick garden border.
I stumble on the medusa head
neighborhood plains garter snakes tangle
into during the weeks near spring.
I show cautious children the photo
on my phone matching the snake. No poison.
The snakes are stubborn as cats. They wait
underneath the shadow of the neighbor’s tires. I coax
them in another direction. My first
snake was a pencil-sized garter pissing
itself in my hand, making my skin slick enough
to slip away. I know there are no poisonous snakes
in Puerto Rico. It’s the pulse of something
that’s all spine. I fear that kind
of exposure, with nothing to protect me
but muscle and sun-drunk stillness.