There's a Good Snake in the compound, the gardener says.
He speaks of it with gesture and whisper.
I rear my forearm inquiringly,
cup my hand for the flared hood.
He moves in response.
We threaten each other.

The women who work in the house
had urged me to hire him: He's young,
they said, and not too dark.
A country boy, he'll work hard.

When I give him instructions
he puts his palms together,
bows quickly and looks awed, or frightened.
He's very strong, he carries a machete.
He says it's for the cobra.

I walk in the garden and hear my echo,
the start and sudden stop of rustle, slither,
in corners where dead leaves gather.
We two gods keep uncertain pace together.

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