His length splayed on the trail’s black-bottom
he turned, opened his mouth, white inside:
cottonmouth. My friends, who grew up
in Memphis, said he’d track us, come after,
so we backed away.
At lunch, Shelby tells me
her mother died when she was twenty-one, father
gone. In the living room, a cop, her uncle, and
a lawyer, who slid a piece of paper across the
coffee table. She didn’t know what she’d signed.
Ten years later, she tracked down the officer
who’d been called to the house. I remember,
he said into the phone, she was murdered.
Shelby went to Memphis, but when he’d sat
down across a coffee, the cop denied it.
all learned to spell Mississippi, before we’d left
second grade, that rhythm, in three segments
of sound. The river I roller bladed beside so
swollen trunks were five feet deep in it. But
in spring white filaments, tufts, banked its slope:
cottonwood. Another name I read before I saw it,
What came out of the cop’s mouth
was padded in lies. Shelby’d signed away the state’s
request for an autopsy. My pet boa, Artemis, never
hissed, just lunged from her tank at my hand,
left the imprint of tiny teeth, a bruise in the fat
pad at my thumb’s base.
In Libya, we’ve already
tested robo-dogs. On spiky feet, roughly the shape
a kid would make from an Erector set, Spot can trot
in packs, sensors attuned to hearts pumping, breath.
A warm yellow, four legs, body, an upright head,
armed, ready to take aim. For police units, they’re