Turtle and Snake

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I let go of his hand that stayed curled like a shell,
the hand I pretended was holding mine too,
took the dirt road toward the swamp.
At the edge of the field, to my left, a turtle.
To my right, a snake, five-footer, stick-straight.
Cottonmouth, if I wasn’t mistaken.
Without thinking the thing through,
wanting nothing more than to fix,
I moved the turtle out into the tall green.
Then saw in the road the lip of loose sand,
the hole, the clutch. The snake,
it came to me (I’m a bit slow), was waiting.
Why, if it had to, it would wait all day.
I set the turtle back—tried to, anyhow—
the way she had been. I wanted to believe
she would blanket her eggs with soft dirt,
camouflage the nest, outwait the snake.
I walked on, hauling my hope like a heavy shell.