Just past midnight when I walked out back to piss in the yard
I saw at my feet
in a patch of moonlight
the old enemy coiled on the root of a cherry tree.
It didn’t rattle or move, and I thought it might be dead,
then the fat tail twitched
as a slight wind washed the root with shadows.
I backed away slowly, looking for the shovel
I kept leaning against the fence.
It wasn’t there. So thinking omen, I left the snake
and walked back into the house.
This morning I saw my mistake. A rope the tree trimmers
left last week
lay draped across the root of the cherry.
Omen? Maybe. But no mistake.
In deep memory the danger remains –
the fat rope
coiled and ready to strike.
For twelve years the Poet Laureate of Georgia, he has received the Frederick Bock Prize and the Levinson Prize, both from Poetry magazine, an Ingram Merrill Award, an Award in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. He lives with his wife and daughter in Atlanta, and his new book of poems, Otherworld, Underworld, Prayer Porch, will be released by Copper Canyon Press in 2018.