Leaves crackle beneath our feet—tinder, kindling—
as we walk by the brook, the crab-apple tree
a crimson pointilliste nimbus.
You want to hold each wounded soul in your hands.
Autumn flares. The damaged, the human berserk,
find their way to you. I don’t know how you sleep.
In the Gorgon’s blood, one drop is poison, the other heals.
Fevered autumn, autumn I adore
croons an old song. We stroll the road
scuffing dust. And come upon
a garter snake lying motionless,
its tail, we guess, nicked by a passing car.
When we nudge it, it flips to its back in an agonized S,
squirms, but can’t advance. Its belly gleams.
We edge it into the grass. Do we stop seeing
when we walk away? The brook prattles on.
Home’s far off. Dusk settles, slowly, among leaves.
That’s not mercy, scattering from its hands.