• Gordon L. Magill


As warmth returns in spring

winter torpor cast off like their old skins

the snakes emerge from their holes and burrows

in Florida’s woods and swamps

venturing out in search of prey

just so the vines emerge

leaping up from their labyrinthine roots

that, I swear, must stretch underground for miles

untraceable, ineradicable, entrenched beyond the reach

of any human tool, plow, or poison

reaching out with snakelike heads and tongues

they grasp for trunk and branch of trees

above, slithering upward inexorably

round and round intertwining with their hosts

like dreadful lovers clasping, grasping, clinging close

suffocatingly close

and I, walking off-trail in the dense oak woods

or in the green tangle of my home lot

find the snake-vines, I name them

reaching out for me with hungry thorns

to snag my pants, my shirt, my cap

biting my legs, arms, face

winding around in front and behind me

as I retreat then following with their coiled

green stems drawn out to full length

in my frenzied struggle to flee

the serpentine tendrils of the snakevines.

I stumble away, tearing at the razor fangs

as I try to wrench free I feel like Laocoön

that unhappy priest of Troy who with his sons perished

forever ensnared in the coils of the sea serpents

the god’s revenge on him

for being a whistleblower on the Greeks.

© Gordon Magill 2021


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