I enter quick,
Rabbit-scared of the dry sticks,
Crackling reeds and weeds, once-watered sedge;
Dry fear, dangerous, eats at the swamp’s crisp edge.
With the muddening of the earth
My scampering softens to a slink;
Lungs reach tenderly to touch the humus stink,
Shrink, but stay; I give dead stumps less berth.
Gracefully crawling now by scummy pools,
I hide in spidery grasses, feel small fishes
Nibbling like persistent wishes;
Softly at first the swamp asserts its rules.
Insects, intermittent frog-falls intersperse
The silence; alligator calls now echo low.
Coiled and bead-eyed, I need not rehearse
The slither or the strike — for now I know
The serpent’s still-imperfect marriage; more,
That even this fearless moccasin form of man
Pays obeisance to the land.
All’s as before.
Trinity Review – 1967