On one of my dying days of gardening, a common garter snake
crawled down my red mulberry bush. I was puzzled
by his beauty, his translucent amber head, underside celeste.
He sniffed the air with his tongue, headed towards me
as if eager to perish by my hands. I remembered a tango,
dancing with the other forked tongues and viper heads,
wearing towels over our shoulders like togas in the spas,
Palazzos San Francisco, circa ‘79, exquisite poses plastique
when the music would stop, when one of us would turn around,
the half-sliced fig caught lux in tenebris, darker shadows sfumato.
We vibrated to a deep bass rising up through the soles of our feet.
How so very polite, leave out the basket of fruit and the wine
for all the guests to imbibe. Tri-colored peaches with a tight
swinging cluster of grapes, seeds spill from a pomegranate split.
Apples blush, the sad one has a scar. But step closer and squinch.
Fungal spots spread over all the leaves. Insect eggs grow and, look,
one already burst, see the tiny spiders scatter all over the crown gall.
I lived with him you know, seven shortened years, my Caravaggio,
bouffant hair, plump lips, curly dark hair, slim hips, salvation
standing contrapposto against the broken columns as if announcing
“here I am, ecce homo!” His cobra sway was blinding, spellbinding
and his spit indeed venomous. I was drawn to him, spirit to light
languorous, Apollo Sauroctonos, shedding inhibitions like molting
of the skin. Spare, treacherous child, this thing creeping towards you.
Heed the Martial epigram. Watch where your fingers sink. Smirk
and snide and take a smiling bite out of the digitus impudicus.
Porcelain serpent paused, flickering, on the edge of sharpened hoe,
passed delicately over one podagric toe, past my patchwork plum
and violet ankles, then out of my garden. I do not understand this.
I once fell in love with a man who cried delirious when he died,
“I now go where the wizards go.” I did not understand this. St. John
in his Gospel wrote, “He was not that light, but was sent to bear
witness of that light,” and I understand this not.