Snakes were once stooped
old men who had a hard look.
Their wives picked them up,
shook out all their stiffness
and lay them down in long grass
to sluff their wrinkly skins.
Wise women see the serpent
in a man’s simple smile and the way
he slithers beneath bed sheets;
they feel the scales on his belly.
Wise men keep their slippery
forked tongues in their heads
and when their torsos coil
around their warm women
they hold back half their strength.