The snake Cap’n Ernst killed glittered
like new pennies. Linnie said the bulge
along its narrow length was a hernia
like one Uncle Max had, but Cap’n Ernst
said it was filled with baby snakes.
Copperheads, he explained, as though
lecturing from a podium, bear live young.
And green-tailed newborns
are exceptionally venomous.
Placing the snake in a galvanized bucket
he pulled on work gloves,
poked the protrusion with a K-bar—
fumbled, shouted when a triangular head
sprung up. But Linnie leaned in, frowned,
It’s got toenails. Cap’n Ernst prodded
with a screwdriver, allowed as how
that might possibly be the hindleg
of a cottontail—snake’s last meal.
Flight to London
Neither an uneasy flyer nor an avid one
I feel small apprehension rattling
down the runway, rushed and pressed
by gravity. I don’t watch the movie but
bring a book, know warp and weft
of a favorite author will see me through.
The pilot says 4,765 miles, Dallas to London.
In seat 36J, I watch icons on a screen
embedded in the seat ahead. We skirt Canada,
cross the Atlantic south of Iceland, which I
cannot see, swaddled in black night at 39,000 feet.
But Iceland’s on the screen, distance traveled—
in miles and kilometers, and time in three zones.
A second screen gives altitude, airspeed,
outside temperature –69 degrees Fahrenheit.
A helpless embryo, I’d freeze
should this aluminum shell crack,
and to whom would I offer a prayer:
Mercury, winged heels faded into myth,
or St. Christopher, decanonized,
sainthood revoked like an abused driver’s license.
I swallow to clear my ears, trust fate.
Lights are visible in London. I am waiting
for the bump of touchdown.
Ann Howells’s poetry appears in Borderlands, RiverSedge, and Spillway among others. She serves on the board of Dallas Poets Community, 501-c-3 non-profit, and has edited Illya’s Honey since 1999, recently going digital (www.IllyasHoney.com) and taking on a co-editor. In 2001, she was named “Distinguished Poet of Dallas” by the city. Her chapbook is, Black Crow in Flight, (Main Street Rag Publishing, 2007). She has been read on NPR, interviewed on Writers Around Annapolis television, and nominated four times for a Pushcart. Her first book, Under a Lone Star, will be released by Village Books Press early in 2016.