rattlesnake roundup

we believe in catch & release.
hunting only for the sake of
capture. a metal hook
to hold the snake at length.
everything in this world 
coils in an 's' shape.
this means ready
to strike. the children run 
in circles. crouch to share
a tray of shoestring fries
dreaming of snaring their own. 
rattles that buzz & thrum.
an instrument of questions.
"when will you fear me,
when will i fear myself?"
we are not the only species
to celebrate arrests but we are
maybe the most ceremonial.
men who save belt buckles 
for standing in mountains 
of rattlesnakes. hands on their hips.
we pluck one from the rest,
explain you need to hold the snake
right behind the head
where he cannot whip around
to bite you. the children
practice on each other. 
a boy covers his eyes 
& his mother tells him he is
missing everything. running,
participants imagine themselves 
in duels with the wild. as if 
they were not also born
in the forest. holding snakes
down to measure them. writing numbers
to dercribe an encounter 
with scales. all their ribs
like angel teeth. milking 
venom to fill cups after cup.
we tell the snakes they are
visitors & soon they will be
sent back into their privacy.
hollows & dark. sunning themselves
& thinking of our faces. round
as personal moons. they are not
afraid of us. they are maybe
furious. maybe grateful.
maybe both at once. wishing they could
fill us with cold blood.
cover us in scales. we take off
our boots boy the door.
check them in the morning 
for snakes. worry about retribute
& the rule of threes. whatever
you give to the world
comes back three fold. 
this time next year we know
we will have to wear this again. 

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